I wanted to wait a few days before I gave you my two cents on what Jesse Williams had to say during his BET Awards acceptance speech. First, I wanted to give it enough time to circulate while observing what people had to say about it. Second, regardless of how necessary his speech was, I always feel a bit hesitant to speak up on racial or societal issues being that I’m mixed.
While I know many children growing up have a much different experience, I considered being multiracial the best of all worlds. Having an African American father who was an advocate for education, self-respect and the best gumbo; I was proud of my blackness and had every reason to be. He was an example of what any man, any color should’ve been. My mother is White and Mexican, which allowed me to observe the differences in culture and showed me at a young age how hard minorities had to work and how differently our white family lived. However I was never upset about it, nor did I favor any side more than the other. I had the luxury to be whatever I felt like being, whenever I needed to be it.
As much as I loved what Jesse Williams had to say, it made me realize some significant things that I hate come with that conversation. Here are six of them in no particular order –
I hate that we’re not more proud of who we are
I hate that so many of us carry ourselves as if we’re clueless about everything we’ve had to fight for in order to stand here today; in order to live, and learn, and vote. We must respect ourselves more than we respect “things”, brands, cars, shoes, lifestyles. At one point all we had was each other, to protect, to teach and love. So why is it so easy now to harm, degrade or disrespect someone who looks just like you after what others had to fight through together in order for you to have the opportunity to live a good life? While we shouldn’t have to prove ourselves, we should be giving others more reasons to admire us, look us in our eyes when they pass us and less reasons to downplay our successes. This country doesn’t care about you, and the sooner you acknowledge that, the sooner you’ll begin to care more about yourself.
I hate that it’s difficult for me to feel comfortable talking about African American rights because I’m not black enough
And honestly, I’d be saying the same things even if I was Chinese. Right is right, whether you’re light or dark. One of my Facebook friends chimed in saying the only reason why we cared about what Jesse Williams had to say, was because he was light skin with blue eyes. How insulting. The unfortunate part is, it’s other black people who make us feel like we’re not black enough to stand for something. My silky hair, colored eyes and fair skin don’t warrant me enough credibility to feel anything towards the injustices we endure. It’s the same as telling those who talk properly that they “talk white”. Don’t discredit our views and place your feet further apart so there isn’t enough room for us to stand on the same platform.
I hate that even when we have the opportunity to stand together, as people we still find a way to separate one another
From people jumping down Justin Timberlake’s throat for being moved by what Jesse had to say, to others using the opportunity to praise his wife’s simple appearance while insulting women who don’t carry themselves like her. Please don’t make people feel like they have to fit in a certain box or look a particular way to stand with you regarding what’s right. People from many walks of life can genuinely share your views without having to had walk in your shoes. Don’t make them feel less than because they haven’t personally experienced it. That’s what separates us even more.
I hate that as much weight as Jesse’s speech held, it’s only the conversation for a short amount of time
Next week, when there’s something more stimulating to talk about, we will no longer be discussing how powerful his words were. Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Sandra Bland’s names have come and gone in the media. They are past tense hashtags and trending topics. Soon a new injustice will surface that will change the topic of our conversation. Rinse, repeat. Our attention span is so short and is continuously redirected from what should be meaningful to all of us, back to what’s important to us as individuals. Let’s keep the values that Jesse mentioned at the forefront of our thoughts, constantly reminding ourselves why they’re critical and significant.
I hate that we pick and choose what parts of black culture are praiseworthy
Using the N word casually because it’s apart of your favorite song, purchasing the jersey of your favorite ball player, wearing braids, wanting curves, full lips and hair or mimicking a dance created in a gentrified neighborhood that you wouldn’t dare to drive through. Cultural appropriation isn’t a fad. It’s so cool to be black, until it’s time to deal with discrimination and suddenly, the things that make our culture unique become “ghetto”, “hood”, or “thuggish”. If you’re going to love black culture for any reason, make it for all reasons. Meaning you’re just as passionate about us needing to be treated as fairly as you, as you are about wanting to be like us.
I hate that we care about the wrong things
As much as I would love to say “go out and do something about it”, I know better. So what I will say is, start with yourself. With how you carry yourself, how you treat others and what you teach others. Care about the people who make the changes. The local legislators who decide what kind of funding your child’s school gets. Care about teaching your children what a classroom won’t. Care about leading by example and helping others even if it’s only one person at a time. You don’t need a reason to be concerned with things that have affected your parents and grandparents and will continue to affect you, your children and their children. We have to take responsibility for what we lack before we can justly demand what it is we need.
More love, xx.