The World Is Not Black and White
The world is not black and white, it’s not even a rainbow. A rainbow would imply each colour is separated by distinct lines which is simply not the case. The world is a spectrum of vibrant colours in thousands of shades. Pinks, yellows, purples, and every colour you could think of in every shade possible. Unfortunately to most people, the world is black and white, at least where I grew up it was.
I grew up in a notoriously white neighbourhood. I had not seen another black person until I was six years old. I used to think I had a skin condition which I inherited from my mother that made me darker than the other kids. It wasn’t until I started elementary school when I saw other people like me. There were a handful of black children in the whole school and they all seemed to know each other, however, I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me. I couldn’t talk to them and they couldn’t talk to me.
Looking back, elementary school was a tough time for me. I wasn’t fully aware of what people were saying or the meaning of their actions until I was older. My most fond memory of my childhood was when I joined Girl Scouts and we had an activity where everyone placed a pin in a country on a world map of where they were from. Europe was completely covered. I had just taken two pins and before I knew it they were snatched out of my hands by a scout who thought she was funny. “I know where these go,” she laughed to the other girls, “right here!” she said putting both pins in the centre of Africa. The scouts laughed but I was more confused. Even if I was African, which I’m not, why would that be funny? I took the pins out of The Congo and placed one in Jamaica and one in Scotland. They were completely baffled. “How are you from Scotland?” one asked me “My father’s parents,” I said. “So does that make you white?” a different scout asked me. “I guess” I replied, I had never used labels before so I wasn’t complete sure what they meant. Since that day, none of the scouts believed that I was born with two races; it was almost like they’ve never heard of bi-racialism...maybe because they hadn’t.
Kids can be cruel. I’ve been called a mutt and I’ve been called “Reblacka”. The worst was learning about Black History in elementary school that memory will stay with me forever. Being the only black kid in the class made the experience all the more uncomfortable. “Were your ancestors slaves?” “if my ancestors every owned your ancestors I’m so sorry” “Does that mean your Grandpa owned your other Grandma?” Sure they meant well but having every kid in this class ask you about your slave grandparents for a month was really awkward. Then we watched a video on Martin Luther King Jr. and it showed old footage of businesses with signs posted on doors saying “No N*ggers Allowed.” A student asked my teacher what that word meant and my teacher told them “It’s a really rude word people used to call black people a long time ago,” then a student turned to me and said “Hey Rebecca-Lynn’s a n*gger!” and some other kids joined in as well, meanwhile other kids were debating whether I truly was a n*gger because I’m also half white. It became a class discussion so my teacher tried her best to stop them but they were having a laugh. As a child I never really understood the real meaning of the word and I’m sure the kids didn’t either, but what upset me as a child was that the teacher told them it was a bad word yet they chose to use it anyways.
As I got older, I met more and more bi-racial people and they all had one thing in common. They were either willfully blind or leaning; and I really don’t blame them. Unless you comply with typical stereotypes, you won’t be considered as your race. I don’t listen to rap music and I love British food; for that, most people don’t consider me as black despite having darker skin. Most biracial people, in my experience, lean more to the side they take the most physical features from; some won’t even acknowledge their other half, which I think is unfortunate. I feel blessed to be born with two races, two beautiful cultures, and the idea of ignoring one to conform to other people’s close-minded standards breaks my heart.
As I entered middle school and high school, I often received the same compliment—If you can call it that--, “You’re really pretty for a black girl!” How does one respond to that? What does that even mean “for a black girl?” I accepted the compliment to be nice, however because of that comment, some black girls actually started looking at me a different way. To them, the only thing that made me “pretty” was the fact that I was half white; that’s where the beauty was. But I think my beauty comes from both sides, the best of both worlds if you would.
A lot of the time, people couldn’t see past my whiteness or my blackness. Being told by white people that “you’re not black/white enough to do that” or being told by black people that “you’re only half black/white so technically it doesn’t count” can start off as a funny comment but after a while it can become hurtful. I’ve even had KKK songs sung to me because someone assumed it wouldn’t be as offensive because I’m only half black. By their logic, Obama is only half black so technically he wasn’t the first black president and Drake isn’t “black enough” to embrace his Caribbean culture. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? People like to pick and choose which biracial person gets to be considered what, but frankly it’s none of their business.
I’ve been told by people of all races that I’m not good enough for my race because most people aren’t used to one person belonging to more than one race. Bi-racialism is becoming more and more common in today’s world. Cultures are mixing and diversity is becoming more and more prominent. As the saying goes, old habits die hard and people still consider the world as black and white, but the world is no longer black and white, nor is it a rainbow. The world is a huge spectrum of cultures and colours in every shade; and it’s beautiful.
Black History Month Canada