By Mollie Innocent-Cupid, Deputy Executive Director
In my last blog (Reflections of Colorblindness), I shared my reflections about seeing color. I asked some questions of you, specifically around how acknowledging or omitting race impact your shared personal and professional spaces.
So, today, I take it a step further to reflect on and explore “What is the Black experience?”
But then again, what is the Asian experience? What is the Hispanic/Latinx experience? What is the White experience? The first step in answering this question, I believe, is to first understand that no group of people are a monolith, and that there is beautiful diversity within these groups.
As I often do, I will share three stories from a few people in my life, and their unique experiences in navigating their Blackness. (These are real people, so I’ve changed their names for privacy.):
Complicated, isn’t it?
Race cannot be examined alone. Instead, we must look at the intersectionality of race and gender, race and socioeconomic status, race and religion, race and complexion… the list is endless.
While we may be tempted to focus solely on the human experience, the other areas that may be more comfortable to address, the one area that cannot be neglected is race — but WHY? Because, regardless of all of the other factors present, race remains as one of the most salient identities that directly influences how people are treated, and how they experience the world…. it colors everything (pun intended).
Even if you sought to ignore it, race has very real impact on self-esteem, mental wellness, self perception, and the treatment of others. Did you know that Black boys are more prone to be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder than other kiddos? Did you know that Black girls are perceived as older and “less innocent” than their counterparts? Were you aware that the lighter a Black person’s skin, the more likely they were to be perceived as being more intelligent than their darker-skinned peers? And that within the Black community, there are ongoing struggles of colorism rooted in slavery and the proximity to Whiteness?
For me, Black History Month (aka American History) is not just about spotlighting folks who made amazing contributions to our world. And for many of them who did not get their flowers during their lifetime– they sure deserve every single bit of celebration, even if it’s during the shortest month of the year.
For me, it’s an opportunity to have honest conversations about how we can do better at seeing one another through our unique experiences, today. It’s how we can help regular Toms, Billys and Jennys of the world by showing them love — and what greater love is there than to hear their stories, and seek to understand their experience?
So, let me ask you this…you know I have to end with a few questions: What have you experienced/learned through your life (or even this post) about the nuances of Blackness? What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned? Maybe even, how have you challenged some preconceived notions about homogeneity within the Black community?