One thing is always constant in our memory. How we treat people, and how people perceive us. Since we are not all wired alike due to differences in our background and cultural beliefs, we tend to allow our biases be the appraisal tool or the judgmental stick ever presented, but never represented in its right content.
Is there a pathway or an escape route for being classified as different? Because I don’t Look like you? Think like you? Talk like you or Move like you qualifies me as a lesser being or just simply unqualified? #AllLivesMatter
Have you ever found yourself fidgeting or uncomfortable when certain topics are discussed? Like the first time you fully understood the real meaning of racism as ‘being deprived of equality? Have your emotions been all over the place about the recent Presidential election? Excited? Astonished? Confused? Is it enough for anyone to fall into the ravine of worry, anxiety, and outright fear? #HopeLives
Do you recall the first time you literally felt a sharp stab in your chest because you were treated differently? You checked yourself out over again! You blurted out subconsciously like a queen-bee about to be dethroned from her colony “Ah, is it not me?
You must have had positive energy, but was rather served with negative vibes of unfairness and a bias attitude. Perhaps, it wasn’t intentional, but H-E-L-L-O! ’It was a discriminative slur, relatively condescending and the message surely hit home. Period.
For some few seconds, did you quickly gasp for air or cough into your palm, secretly smelling it to see if your breath was the culprit or if the perspiration caused from the invisible slap had dribbled cold sweat to your perfectly deodorized-armpit, did it play a role in this brutal emotional abuse? Or maybe all of a sudden, you finally realize that your skin color differs? Oh, could it be gender issues? Or maybe it’s the textured foreign accent that sold you out? Your ‘Rs” and “Hs” not aligning with your lingual heredity. Aha! You-are-busted!
Whatever form of prejudice you have encountered…’permit me to welcome you to the baffled world of disparity, distinction and divergence! Scholarly referred to as “different” but sophisticatedly acknowledged as racism, sexism, classicism or any of the other “ISMs”! And in a layman’s language: #Outcast
During my elementary school days at CCS Victoria Island Lagos, Nigeria, my dark-skinned creative art teacher, Mrs. Benson wanted something different for the upcoming yearly prize giving day. Usually, I was always on the front line of the ever melodious Hausa/Fulani cultural dance group. I always looked forward to being thrown up in the air during the “Dan Mani O” dance or when am given the lead role to twist my tiny waist and begin the dramatic ‘Tama-yaki-tama’ dance!
There’s something sensual and feminine about the way we cover our faces with our beautifully intricately painted hands, smiling shyly, pulling the scarf to cover our innocent baby face as the groomed make-believe Fulani herds boys (mostly consisted of the 4 Akwa-Ibom boys in my class) holla in salute to our indulged innocence. The glittery dangling gold-plated bangles on our skinny wrists, the catchy black eyelids lined to perfection, revealing the unknown cat eyes we were too young to understand was there! #Hilarious
But, she had specifically declared she wanted an Indian-cultural dance group! – Hmmm…’Oh-ok! And was only selecting “Beautiful”, “Light skinned-Girls with long silky hair”. So happens my school did have about 70% kids who were of mixed heritage, what we called half-caste then, and honestly, with my Brazilian-heritage surname, I was classically considered mulatto? Or so I thought until I wasn’t selected! Oh Snap!
Eventually, I still managed to shine on stage during my Hausa/Fulani dance, but as young as I was then, I was so heartbroken for being discriminated against. After all I knew all the latest Indian songs by heart, I had always sneaked out with my big sister to watch Indian movies at Plaza cinema when Mom’s not aware! In fact, I could have sworn that Amitabh Baachan and Shashi Kapoor acknowledged my commitment! (Lol)
Why wasn’t I selected to represent their culture? Ah! Was it because my mom had annoyingly made my natural hair that week with the black glossy thread (I always hated that local hairdo anyway!) And I honestly blamed my hair stylist, Sisi Joyce! (The Obalende hair-lady who had gone away to have her 6th baby)! Maybe my hair wasn’t silky and long enough like my adorable big sister, ‘Bopo who had such beautiful rich textured long hair, one to die for? Or maybe, I just wasn’t good enough?
What-was-the-selection-criteria? I wondered and contemplated and needed to understand why I didn’t fit into that group? After all, Chizo Njoku was selected, yeah! And we both had the same hair style, and if anything she was really dark-skinned! (PS: Chizoba dear! pardon me) LOL!
What made them more qualified and me less capable? Asking my mother didn’t help the issue, she was more curious and concerned that I didn’t join the Igbo dance troupe! Seriously!! #TribalIssues
So, chances are all of us have all dealt with one kind of discriminatory episode or the other in our lives, but then as we get older, the term begins to get more softened or intimidating. We tend to learn from it, grow with it or die in denial about it.
There is a common ground we tend to create when we encounter people of a different race or culture during a challenging period of our lives, one that’s always beyond our control.
Through our journey in life, we must have encountered one or two people who deeply touched us positively or negatively and are not of the same racial background like us, and vice versa. Did we recognize that common ground of interest that created the bond or lack there of it, initially?
For me, I’d learned to set into motion the reality of fighting acceptance at an early stage, I‘ve learned to rely on my strength by using my God-given ability to dust off discrimination of any form I encounter. I have learned to walk up straight and tall with confidence and genuine power of authority as I have been so blessed to lead a corporate world that limits the voice of the minorities! #RIPGwenIfill
I’ve learned not only to ignore the underlying slurs of weakness in ignorant people around me, but shaking off doubt and seeing it as a stepping stone of advancement for what I believe in. I’ve learned to walk into crowded seminar halls full of people who did not look or sound like me, to give presentations or teach clinical programs on topics that keep my audience alert, awake and in tears at night concerning issues of their well-being or the life span of their children. I’ve learned to leave outside the door any form of distraction or bitterness that comes with the history, but focusing and creating a deep devotion for what I believe in, and making them crave for my worth rather than wonder on what kind of specimen or gene I am made of! #StrongBlackWoman
What about you? How do you handle discrimination? Has it ever occurred to you that we are “still” waging an eternal war on equality and basic human right?
You see, as boring as history is today, one story considered valid in one classroom, at one time, and in one place will not necessarily be considered so in another classroom, at another time, and in another place. Our test of humanity contains the true-false item we all refuse to accept. If we are defined by the restoring, forgiving grace of God, not by our past choices, others’ voices, or our present struggles. Shouldn’t we be reminded of the value God sees in us?
In Langston Hughes’s book “Ways of white folk’s (Cora Unashamed) I learned the defeating rage of vengeance on how long and frustrating it was to wait to get behind closed-doors to finally vent, after being ridiculed and humiliated for years in public. Oh Yes!
How many times have we debunked classicism (dignity and elegance) as “not in my clique” kind of experience, even in the smallest informal settings we find ourselves? Just like my Father would say continuously when enraged about the corruption in the distribution of land ownership “My daughter, hmm’ They can’t buy class” – I thought money could? Oh-My-word!
Or have we given up on the fight on racial discrimination and would rather hang around only those we are “comfortable” with or there are possibilities of having a biased mindset about the other ethnic group due to their contexts or culture? Are we terrified of Individuals from diverse subgroups such as those defined by race, ethnicity, gender, culture, language, age, disability or socio economic status?
Today, I guess religion and politics will always be biased areas because a line has been drawn in the sand and everyone must choose a side which creates that bias. But this shouldn’t be for equality, it should be unbiased and fair as possible.
I am hoping that someone reading this, as they go through one of those “less than trusting” days, be reminded that God is still in control. Yes, God does give us the risky gift of choice, but He is still sovereign and sitting on His throne. Still in doubt?
Moving forward, let’s enter a new phase and stage of life, we can be confident that God goes before us. Because of whatever circumstances we are facing, all we see is an unknown but rather intimidating future ahead of us, would you think the state of the economy is all in the rebellion against the elites? While, others suffer for it?
Are there complications that have your heart grieving and sifting through ashes? Perhaps you are trying to keep a stiff upper lip and carry those broken burdens quietly? Equality, Immigration or Generalization issues?
Let’s enlighten ourselves some and shed the ignorance that so glaringly blinds us from the burning reality that surrounds us. Ignorance like darkness, clouds one’s judgment and leads one into a maze of fear, doubt, intimidation, uncertainty, confusion and if we are not careful a state of total anarchy.
The reality is that we live in a broken world. Trials and trouble are a byproduct of that brokenness. Shouldn’t we be pleading with God for an exemption clause? However, I have discovered an amazing truth that makes it easier to face every shattering moment that lies ahead, to keep HOPE alive in the CHANGE I choose to be! #ChangeIsTheOnlyConstant
Yours in HOPE as I share one of my favorite quotes by VP Joe Biden (Uncle Joe)
‘No fundamental social change occurs merely because government acts, it’s because civil society, the conscience of a country, begins to rise up and demand-demand-demand change’ – The Real Joe Biden – an accomplished statesman and deceptively eloquent orator.