While I was scrolling through Tumblr, I came across this blog post accusing African Americans of being hypocritical when complaining about their image in the media as they’re the ones who perpetuate it. Continue reading
The Things You Won’t Remember: The Plight of the Black Male in America
When the group of young boys got on at 79th Street, very few people took notice of them. Slouched in their hard, plastic seats or leaning against the doors, the eyes of my fellow passengers were glued to their books and their glowing Apple devices.
Recently, new details have emerged in the story of the Mike Brown – new details that I believe highlight an old problem.
My roommate and I have a running joke, the perfect encapsulation of our on-going dialogue about our place in society as the children of immigrants. What do white people eat for dinner? She is Korean and I am Sudanese and we are visibly otherenough so that when someone looks at us, they automatically bring with them a set of assumptions and act out a set of prejudices.
In his article “Black Heritage: A Fight For Identity”, The Stripes’ Kovey Coles outlines a few encounters where people have inquired of his heritage. Most of the encounters that he lists occurred abroad, between him and a nonnative English speaker. However, the article was mainly focused on Mr. Coles’ feeling that because many Blacks in American do not know their true heritage, any inquiry into their ancestry is insensitive.
As a Black person, I agree that it is somewhat insensitive, and I admit that I too have felt a twinge of envy when my lighter complexioned friends are able to claim certain percentages of German, Italian, Swiss, Portuguese, and perhaps even Native American descent. But the fact that he is discomforted by this question suggests that he sees our history as a source of shame, as something that needs to be covered up.
My best friend LaMecca and I have very different hair. This is not at all surprising, considering I am of Chinese descent and she is of German and African-American descent. I did not understand, however, what “different” meant in the context of hair until we became roommates during our senior year of high school.
In high school I worked at the local Santa Cruz County Immigration Center in Watsonville, California, an agricultural town inhabited largely by Mexican immigrants and their descendants. One service we offered was assisting clients in filling out immigration paperwork, as the majority of them did not speak English and a number of them could not read or write, even in their native language. A peculiarity that stood out to me was how, when filling out the race and ethnicity section, we instructed all our clients to check Hispanic for ethnicity and white for race. Clients were periodically confused at the race box: why did they check white when in the United States they were constantly made aware of their non-whiteness?
In my opinion, one of the cruelest things you can do to a modern, western, black individual is inquire into his or her ancestral background.
In America, people are rarely so insensitive, given their general knowledge of colonial history, but this frequently happens to me when I go abroad. And, quite frankly, it sucks. The inquiry almost always arises out of friendly intention and general curiosity, which is obvious when the questioner’s face lights up in a smile.
“So where are you from?”
During a long drive with my friend Jamal to New York, our conversation led to a discussion he had recently had with our friend Maria. He was recounting a debate he had with her over immigration, explaining that he was frustrated by her manner of expression. He felt that she had shut him out when she raised her voice, displayed no intention of really listening to him, and expressed too much emotion during their discussion. Surprised, I told him I had no idea what he was referring to but instead was reminded of the agreeable discussions I’ve had with her in the past. In time, we moved on to another topic, but the brief conversation lingered in the back of my mind. Continue reading
When I was a child, I wanted to be a writer.
My reasons were not heroic. I did not initially see writing as a way for me to think about my role as an African immigrant in America. As a child, I did not fully understand how the lack of black heroes and heroines in the books I read affected my writing and my self-worth. For me, writing served was just a fun outlet.