ed. note: one thing i love about this series is the wide spectrum of voices and stories. today’s comes from one of my fave twitter peeps, who doesn’t let his blindness stop him. kinda makes me feel like i can do anything. *puts on cape. it also reminds me that race isn’t as color blind as some people claim it is/should be.
reading this reminded me of Papa Pope reading his daughter Liv on Scandal about needing to be twice as good, just to be seen as basic. it’s a sentiment that resonated with many black folk i know. sadly.
these are john’s words.
Many years passed before I was even able to conceptualize the idea of blackness.
People often talk about being “color-blind” to race, but I am actually, totally blind. Therefore, I had been simply unaware of the differences until approximately age 8 or so.
Oh I was aware in some ways that I hadn’t thought about, the sounds of people’s voice being the most pronounced of these. My family, and especially my parents, are some of the most country people I have ever known. And I am sad to say, these accents caused people to think less of them.
For instance, my mom was once trying to get a library card at the Southern Pines public library. She approached the white woman at the counter.
“Where do you reside” the white woman asked.
“Sudden Pines” mom replied.
“I’ve never heard of a sudden Pines” the woman snidely replied.
“Oh well, Sutterin’ Pines” mom said in an attempt to more closely
approximate the correct pronunciation.
I just thought that whole thing was completely unnecessary. That woman clearly knew what my mom meant, and was just being a deliberate pain.
This taught me that I too would be judged by my speech and mannerisms,
and perhaps lose out on opportunities/experiences because of them. Because I had grown up in a household that spoke in such ways, I would often address professionals by saying things such as “yah” and “nah” instead of “yes” and “no”. I just hated the way those sounded!
My sisters constantly grilled me on the importance of talking in a more standardized tone to such individuals. I don’t think I have ever found myself in a life-threatening position as a result of my speech though. I am well aware that it can happen, and if I have a son I will try to make sure he knows these things as well.
Better yet, I hope somehow that we reach a point where people are not mistreated on the basis of their racial/cultural background.
I would say that the highest degree to which I have experienced such mistreatment would probably be in dating. I have and will always have an open mind with regards to my selection of partners. Of course, the world in which we find ourselves might not be so open-minded.
I have been in two different relationships, neither with a black person. In the first, the family subtly encouraged her to find someone of her ethnic origin to marry. I can’t say this is entirely why it ended, but doubtless it played a part. The second was even more complicated, as many of her friends actively dislike me and tried to plant ideas in her head to get her to find a richer, white man. I guess I’m coming around to the fact that if I don’t wish to experience such craziness constantly, it would be best for me to find a member of my own race. Not that I have an issue with dating black women, of course, I’d just rather have a choice about the thing.
So those are some of my, admittedly, disjointed thoughts regarding race as it currently stands. It’s a hard concept for me to ever fully wrap my hands around, even though I know it has an impact on just about everything I experience.
Difference is good and should be celebrated and enjoyed. I guess I will continue to hope that we eventually learn to stop fighting about and hating each other for it,