I’ll probably catch a serious flogging for this later, but at one point in my life I wished I was white.
I had a very bad experience once because of my skin color, no, not that experience — my then boyfriend’s parents told him they didn’t like him dating me because I wasn’t “light enough” (they were chiney). I couldn’t figure out why it would make me different. I laughed, smiled, had feelings like everyone else, right? Heck, we were from the same country.
We hear very often about whites being prejudiced against blacks, but it’s not just white people who are prejudiced – oh no – black people are just as or more prejudiced. Black people aren’t just prejudiced about skin color either, they take it to location. I don’t think most white people are even aware of this because it’s kept so quietly in the black community.
The Caribbean blacks tend to be prejudiced against the American blacks. Go up to a Jamaican, Trini or Haitian and call them African American and watch how quickly they’ll correct you — and I believe it extends a little beyond simple pride in one’s country.
Based on my own experience, Caribbeans generally equate themselves with being hard workers and industrious as a whole, while African Americans are regarded as “lazy” and “ghetto”.
I had no idea of the extent of this mindset until I befriended an American black and my Jamaican friend asked me why I would ‘associate’ myself with an American black (I sanitized this example for your protection).
It took me about a year, but I figured out the basic food chain in my high school:
1. Light skinned Jamaicans (trini, chiney, black/white mixed)
2. Moderate skinned Jamaicans (generally darker black/white mixed)
3. Darked skinned Jamaicans & Haitians
4. Light skinned African Americans
5. Dark skinned African Americans
But this street went both ways, a lot of the African Americans thought of the Caribbeans as stuck up and sell outs. My bus driver actually had the audacity to ask me if my daddy was a ‘drug dealer’ because he ‘picked me up in a different car everyday’. I’ve also been teased a great many times because of how I speak. To quote – I “sound white” or “I’m trying to act white” – er, what?
I speak how I was raised to speak and I take great pride in how I speak. But why should it have mattered how I sound — shouldn’t people be listening to what I actually had to say instead?
Throw in a dash of colorism and we have a bona fide mix of — WTF? I think that’s what drove me over the edge. It seemed less complicated to just be white — and you know what else? I’m fairly sure I’m not the only black person to think along those same lines, just more likely to admit it. I even went out and bought skin bleaching cream and was fully ready to turn myself into, at best, a light skinned Jamaican.
I came to my senses though and have grown quite fond of my loverly shade of a cocoa bean brown (however difficult it may be to find decent make up), but the problem hasn’t exactly gone away and I still need to be extra careful that I don’t go missing at any point in my life.
But now instead of wishing I were white, I just wish that, if only for one day – one measly day – we could all just be treated equally regardless of complexion or nationality. I figure, in that one day, the world may come to its senses and that one day will turn into many more…is that too much to ask?