By Savannah Cooper | Staff Writer
Imagine being told you speak a color. Imagine walking into a room and seeing no one else who looks like you. Imagine involuntarily representing your entire race based on your actions.
As a minority, that’s been my life in most settings. Granted, I can only speak for myself, but on top of being poorly represented across most areas of life except for sports and the nightly news arrest reports, we almost have to walk on eggshells to be acceptable in the public eye.
Whether it’s school, a place of work or social settings in particular, I’m constantly reminded of the pigment my skin holds.
In a school setting, it’s the mispronunciation of your name with variations you didn’t dream were possible. It’s watching videos upon videos of your ancestors being brutally harmed and murdered by those who were sworn to protect them. It’s flipping through history textbooks, year after year and never seeing yourself represented outside of slavery or immigration. You might get a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks mashup paragraph if your school district is liberal enough.
When February rolls around, you can feel all the eyes on you as you walk to your desk from the pencil sharpener. When a new boy who looks like you comes into class, suddenly you’re the next bachelorette at the “Final Rose Ceremony.” At lunchtime, your food is met with admiration or criticism for its different smell and look that are than the socially accepted peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In gym class, if you aren’t a first round kickball draft pick you were permanently on the bench. If there’s a school sponsored dance and the hottest one hit wonder by X rapper comes on, you’re suppose to hit each lyric and dance on beat without fail for everyone’s entertainment and cameras.
In a work setting, you’re questioned how does your hair do “that” with curious, yet unwarranted fingers. In the same way, showing our natural roots isn’t seen as professionalism–– irony at its finest. Cooler conversations involve, again, a press conference-like setting where you have to explain why non-black people can’t say, type or retweet the N-word. When someone else of color walks into the room, we gravitate toward them for comfort. This is why we seemingly all know one another.
In a social setting, let’s say a football tailgate, it’s walking up and feeling like free food comes at a cost for you and your friends. It’s people apologizing profusely for simply hovering over a cooler with ice cold water bottles. And my absolute favorite, “OMG you’re so pretty with your perfect tanned skin!” Tan? Try melanin.
Quick question, why is tanned skin so praised and highly sought after, however the people who naturally have it are not? If I had a dollar for every time I heard “I’m almost as dark as you,” student loans wouldn’t be in my browser history.
Please don’t get uncomfortable. There are so many things we do without realizing it, so take this as a “You know better, now do better moment,” and pass it along. Keep others in check of their actions toward those who don’t resemble them. We’re all far more alike than we are different and the power of a single action goes a long way.