On Saturday I had a conversation with a man – a conversation about women. As good conversations do, it bounced from interracial relationships; predominantly the differences in treatment from black, opposed to Caucasian men. Then it touched on the differences in behavior between black American vs. ‘other’ black women. It was fantastic!
My discussion partner was a black Nigerian Londoner who has some very definitive ideas about black women in general and black American women in particular. Coincidentally, so do I. My first opinion is this: there are very distinct differences that distinguish women based on both where they were born and who raised them. Being a black woman from Trinidad, I have to say that not only do I not see color; I am also not influenced by the color of someone’s skin. As a result of this, I am always surprised when/if someone finds it necessary to point out that I may be dating someone white. Yes..?
I remember years ago, a Caucasian man thought he was complimenting me when he said: ‘you are a very beautiful black woman”; he was surprised at my reaction. My response was in the form of a question: “why is it necessary to state “black” in there? When complimenting a Caucasian woman, do you similarly say, ‘you are a very beautiful white woman?'” I’m sure he still wishes he had kept his mouth shut (and probably even thought that I was one of those quintessential “angry black women”; ha-ha).
I am not; so, let’s address this. What I am, is a woman who refuses to get caught in the color-coding that exists, seemingly to keep everyone in their given place. I refuse to be stereotyped. But, I digress – I do readily admit that I know in many circumstances I am treated differently that my American counterparts; in part because I have an accent. I accept that. However, I would also like to think that I am afforded seemingly more opportunities because I work hard (as a lot of Immigrants do), readily ‘pay my dues’ and understand the undeniable value in the way I carry myself and present to the world.
In no way am I stating that that makes me better than black American women; that would be disrespectful and untrue. But, what I am saying, is that because I come from a place and a society that simply calls each of their citizens Trinidadians, as opposed to ‘Black Trinidadians’ or ‘Caucasian Trinidadians’ or ‘Asian Trinidadians’ or ‘Indian Trinidadians’ (because yes, we do have all those cultures), we instead focus on the person; not their color (or at least, most of us do). So, because our own ethnicity becomes a non-issue, we are forced to concentrate on displaying the characteristics that truly matter.
Conversely, I have found that black America is in a constant state of being reminded of just where they are positioned on the color wheel; and, we all know those wheels start off with the lightest in the front and the darkest, well…. Because this is (still) not my reality, I can only imagine what it must be like when the first thing about you that is noticed or spoken about, is the color of your skin. Maybe that’s why consciously or not, so many women are seemingly trying to divert attention from their ethnicity – straight-hair weaves, colored contacts and for some, the full-time job and eternal quest to catch the attention of, snag and hopefully marry a white man. Please, don’t shoot the messenger – I am an equal opportunity lover – I am only speaking about those that do it in the hope it would sufficiently dilute their heritage enough to soften their off-spring’s hair and misguidedly assume a white man at their side elevates their status and differentiates them from their counterparts.
There is so much more to address on this; but feeling as if some of you may need a minute. Let’s pick this up another day…