After a conversation with a friend this week about the blog, I agreed with her that it was necessary to expound upon why I seek to live life without race. I briefly shared with her my childhood and formative experiences in a hyper- racialized home environment. From conception, my life has been determined by race. My mother, a dark complexioned woman, said to me when asked why she had chosen my father, “Because he was light- skinned with good hair.” His social appearance not his attributes were of more importance in the decision to bring another person into being.
While in college, I, like many others in my freshman class, went through the stages of racial self- awareness and ended up where most do— as a Black Nationalist. I cut off my permed hair, learned Kiswahili and wore dashikis. My dorm room became a museum of African art, instruments and literature. I was “Black and proud” or at least I wanted to be. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Afro and African American studies still not realizing that black was a color not a continent. Black is a way of being, a socially constructed experience that maintains the hierarchy of human beings for the benefit of American capitalism. It is not an identity suited for human beings but for products.
I’ve noticed in my encounters with persons who lived through Jim Crow segregation and experienced the everyday slights that are now a part of DVD collections and Black History Month commercials, a commitment to black as a racial identity despite the social, emotional and spiritual problems that accompany it. These persons seem to be bound to race as if it is a companion as opposed to the culprit, as if to let go of the identity will somehow erase the experience of injustice. Race is not a witness but an accomplice.
I believe that to accept the identity of black is comparable to accepting the rationale of an abuser for his or her abuse. It is to say that because we are black, this or that happened. African slaves were enslaved because they were black. The Black Codes were enacted because they were black. The lynching of thousands of African American women, men and children occurred because they were black. Segregation was necessary because they were black. The continued preferential treatment of some and not others is because…
Where in these statements is the party who perpetuates these crimes against humanity held accountable? Here, the victim of the oppression is the problem. It is to say that this social identity is the reason for the mistreatment we receive, that if we looked different, that if we were someone else, we would be treated differently. We make society do it. No, in accepting the excuse of a racial identity is to not hold the abuser accountable. I choose to live a race- less life because I no longer want to believe that the social mistreatment that I receive is my fault.