Kindness is a personality trait not a skin tone, not a hair texture. Kindness is something that everyone is capable of and was never just for white or lighter skinned people!
Let me go back…All of my life I’ve been told I had resting bitch face before it was even called that! I could honestly be walking down the street thinking of the state of humanity, some bullshit beatnik poetry I read, and my love: music while enjoying the sights of nature. “Why you look so mean?” I apparently look so mean that not only white women cling their purses while I walk down the street, but black people who’ve never really grew up around black people have as well!! (Yes, black people like me can tell)
I’m so vicious apparently, but as soon as I open my mouth to speak from all the stares and suspicions..”good morning” there is a surprised look on their face! After all I’m supposed to not be nice. I’m supposed to be angry, horrible, and rude. Instead, I’m kind, patient, and compassionate. So, whenever I get that look of surprise it gets me thinking how interesting life would be if we could see everyone’s inner beauty. Some people would look ragged, some would like radiant, but do we stop showing respect and compassion to the asshole who looks ragged? Does our sense of humanity stop there? Do we look at that person and say”Whoops-Can’t talk! your an asshole”? would that make our radiant glow dull out and appearance become ragged because we’ve suddenly become the assholes that we claimed to not want to be?
Anyway, as a black woman I seem to disappoint all those around me.
I’m not physically aggressive, I’m not mean, I’m not rude, I’m not so deeply unhappy that I’m spouting out negro spirituals at the grocery store, I don’t emasculate men, I don’t yell at anyone. I’m relaxed, I’m reserved, and I have a soft-ish voice.. and guess what?? A lot of black women are like this too!
When I was a teenager, I was a square. Still am a square.. The first time I was drunk was my 27th birthday, the second and last time was my 28th birthday. I mostly worried a great deal about causing my mother pain or disappointing her, so I did my best not to. I didn’t really rebel, I just wanted to do art. I was intelligent and curious about the world but often found myself being shut down and discouraged by my teachers whenever I had asked a question. I was accused of being a troublemaker despite the fact that I spent my times in class silently with my sketch pad while either being ignored by teacher or told my questions are dumb. I was suspended for disagreeing, suspended once for wearing a tank top to school not beacause I wanted to but because I was poor and didn’t have any sweaters, and told I was nothing sometimes.
So, I did the only thing I thought I could do as a teen.Respectability politics.
Be softer spoken, Straighten your hair every morning, walk with your fingers folded so no one could think your stealing. Do everything you can to comfort people and make the think your a good person. That never worked..
My friends parents assumed I was this trouble maker child that did wild things because I came from a single parent household and was practically a latch key kid. I laugh at how little they knew their children. I never did drugs, Never drank alcohol, I had sex but not just with anyone! I was incredibly discreet about who I was intimate with, and wasn’t out here fucking the pain away like they assumed so many fatherless daughters do.
Somehow,they were worried that I was affecting their children and I wasn’t. In fact, I was the friend making sure their kids didn’t drink too much, walked them home if they did, I was there breaking up their fights, trying to persuade them not to do drugs, begging them to see the bigger picture, and giving them advice that some of them hold on to this day and still thank me for. I was the friend who reminded them that things could be a lot worse in their life and that having parents who cared wasn’t always a bad thing. *****
As an adult I thought I was done with that part of my life and that adults judged adults by their character and not their looks. How wrong was I.
I feel society tries their best to make me angry when I’m not. Society tries to make me aggressive when I’m not. Society tries to strip me of any sort of humanity., but on the opposite spectrum society mostly loves my mom. Shes a light skinned black women and people ask her “what are you?” as if shes some exotic breed animal that deserves all love and preservation. Peoples eyes light up when they see my mother and people eyes dull in disappointment when they see me. Such is the story of my life and I usually laugh at this part. This is usually the part where people try to put in me into their box. She must be loud! wrong. She must be angry! wrong. She must be stupid! wrong. Well, if she can’t fit into these boxes then who is she? A freak. That’s what she is..And I feel bad about how I treated her so, let me double down on being mean just so I can provoke her..So, then I can finally be right!! Wrong. My mother could do no wrong, neither could my light skinned hazel eyed aunt, but myself a strong African featured gal and my dark skin aunt were somehow Satans mistresses.
There as a job I used to work at. A job that was well established and busy. The job always threw parties and had leftovers. I would take it down like clockwork and donate it to a homeless shelter and as usual it was met with disbelief. “What’s the name of the shelter?” “whats the address of the shelter” “Do you have a card?” it was as if I was being accused of stealing free food that could feed fifty that only twelve ate. I was either ridiculed, shamed, or accused of doing something with the food other than donating it to the poor. In fact they look to find the white person behind this idea. Did my boss put me up to it? Did a white coworker put me up to it? Who thought of this? because somehow it couldn’t be me.
(I could go all day about how frustrating this is, but I won’t because I would save this for another post.)
And today.. I am asked. Well I am asked this all the time. “Why are you so happy?! ” “What do you have to be so happy about?” “how can you be happy?”
Again.. Black women can be kind, compassionate, cheerful, loving, humane, respectful, reliable,honest, and just like everyone else.
Over the summer a black woman was called the cops on after buying some groceries and giving them to a homeless man outside. She was accused of stealing despite having a receipt, cameras, and having been the usual grocery store she goes to.
And to contrast a black man was the called the cops on over the summer for sitting in his car listening to a yoga cd! trying to find his peace and center.
So, society tells me that humanity and kindness reserved for white people, lighter skinned damn near white looking POC. It’s a miracle I’m a nice at all!!!