Can We Really Change our Race and Gender?
This is a very delicate topic. One of things that I find difficult about the mainstream media is that they seem to force people to take extreme positions of right or wrong, as opposed to analyzing layers of truth in between.
I don’t have a problem with Bruce Jenner referring to himself as Caitlyn Jenner or Rachel Dolezal, the women who is white who is portrays herself as being African American. I don’t feel that anyone has a right to force their beliefs onto another person—but can this line go both ways.
When I was a little girl, I asked my father to paint me white. I told my father that everybody hate black people. My father cried and said, “Momma, don’t you want to look like the people who love you the most in this world?”
Back in the early 1970s, I wanted to be white because they seemed to have everything. All of my favorite television show characters were white— I loved the Brady Bunch, I had a serious crush on Bill Bixby on the courtship of Eddie’s Father. Although, I lived in a primarily black neighborhood, most of my teachers were white, my doctors were white, --and all of the people whom I interacted with some type of “authority or power”— were white.
As a dark skinned, little black girl, my cousins called me blacky. They told me that I would be much prettier if it were not for my skin color. The kids in school teased me about my dark brown skin color. I tried not to play in the sun, hoping this would lighten my skin complexion—but it didn’t.
I could not understand why my daddy couldn’t see why I needed to be painted white.
The journey of self-discovery and self-love that life inflicted upon me was the purpose of my soul’s incarnation.
My skin color is not what makes me black. What makes me black is what the world assumes about me—when they see my skin color. What makes me black is the stories my father told me about waking up in the morning in the deep south to see his family members and neighbors hanging from lynching posts that he showed me when I was a little girl. My mother telling me stories of watching the KKK march through the streets of Selma, Alabama.
My mother told me that the most hurtful thing of all was being able to recognize the voices and the shoes of the KKK members covered with sheets. She said most of the KKK members were the people they bought groceries from and other so-called respectful people in the community—who smiled in their faces and spoke to them on a daily bases.
Growing up, neighbors egged our family home and wrote on the sidewalk Niggers Go Back to Africa.
Now that I think about it—I don’t know if the white paint would have made my stay on earth more tolerable.
There is a collective experience to being white that I now understand that I could never relate to. My boyfriend of 20-years who is white has a way of interacting with the world that stills blow my mind. If a sign says: Do not walk on the grass; he will walk on the grass slowly and without guilt. While crossing the street if the light is red, he will walk across the street daring cars to hit him. He says, Sandy, “I am the Goddamn pedestrian. I have the right of way. They hit me. They go to jail.”
I feel like if someone hits me, I am dead, and no one will care—maybe even if the light was green.
I live in a world where people who share shades of my skin color are discriminated against. These experiences have shaped my worldview and self-perception beyond my comprehension.
When I read the story of how enslaved African mothers were required to nurse their master’s children and there was no milk left in their breasts to feed their own children. I sobbed in the Henry Ford Community College library. I cried myself to sleep for three nights .This made an indelible mark on my identity as a black woman. I don’t know if this story would have tugged at my soul with the same fervor if I had been born white or a man.
Nature made me a woman. She provided me with a female reproductive system that allowed me to give birth to my children, nurse them, and a monthly period. However, my gender identity and development as a little girl who grew into a woman started outside of my consciousness.
Society and my parents gave me a gender role script on how little girls are supposed to conduct themselves; what colors to wear, how to sit…etc. Unlike my two brothers, they told me that it was okay for me to cry when I hurt myself or because I was sad over a commercial. Not to mention, numerous speeches about what it means to be a “young lady as opposed to a “slut.” The gender role script of femininity is ancient, and yet still evolving-- is such a powerful paradigm of reality that defines womanhood to its victims and victors.
I yearned for the same curfew privileges as my brothers, but my parents proclaimed, “Young ladies with class should be home by a reasonable time.” My job was to fold laundry and wash the dishes. My brothers were required to do yard work and take out the garbage. I got to sit in the front seat and get a $1.50 more in allowance because I was their little sister.
I read the book, “Are you There God, It’s Me Margaret” and felt that the book was about me. I read it over and over and over again. I will never forget when my breasts first started to develop and I got my first period, and my first bra.
I don’t think it’s my hair, clothes, and lipstick that make me a woman. I don’t think it’s my skin color and hair texture that makes me African American. But I can say that… the things that I cannot change about myself have been my spiritual gifts to humanity.
I don’t know if I identify with being the female gender because I was born in a woman’s body or because I would have selected to play the role of a woman—no matter if I was born male or female. I don’t know if I would have chosen to be black or African American in a society where we have been enslaved and continue to struggle for equality.
Where am I going with this? I bet at some point Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Helen Keller wished upon a star that they could see again. Stephen Hawking probably wishes that he could walk again. What if life on this planet is not about changing our Earth Suits that our souls have chosen—but asking our souls what is the spiritual mission of this body—in this time—in this place?