My Skin

White. We picture angels, purity, a better place, cleanliness. Black. We associate darkness, immorality, infection, grime. For a color that has such benign attributes, I find no favor whatsoever. The color I speak of, the color of my skin, fills me with a deep-seated abhorrence, I have no control over the quarrels of. I find it repulsive and completely horrendous. It may be premature, possibly even a bit biased of me, but I honestly could not care less. I know what abominable doings lie behind the color that I have worn my entire life. What shame is inescapably attached. I am not prepared to come before you today and proclaim how white is still such an elegant color. In fact ,I intend to show you exactly why it isn’t.

 

The year was 1619, man turned their faces away from God and to the fields of profit. What started as 20 men torn away from their homes and involuntarily shipped to America, grew to an approximated six to seven million poor souls in the 18th century. Millions of men, women, and children were persecuted, malnourished, and wrought to the bone. One color was majorly behind this atrocious sequence of events. One color was largely behind the 245 year period, human beings were sold as property- something to be owned. I marvel at these statistics in disbelief, only.. It is not disbelief:  It’s horror. I know that these numbers are real. I don’t want to believe that the country I live in and ancestors to my family brutalized an ethnicity, simply because their skin did not match what ideals they had aligned in their twisted minds. The color was thought to be ‘unclean’ because of its dark appearance. Well, they were right about one thing. That complexion was indeed dark. Murky brown neared the color of the ground we walk upon, our foundation; what keeps all of our houses, workplaces, and equity from collapsing beneath us- unable to hold onto stability. Intense black embodied the very galaxy that houses, millions of stars and numerous planets with each their individual environments, the solar system in which holds our very own planet Earth. Rich hazel personified the deep colored liquid that kisses many of us awake each morning with it’s bold but exceedingly smooth aroma. Dark, undoubtedly — a splendidly rich and vibrant dark — that holds within it so many varying colors, it would be inaccurate to only pinpoint just one.

 

Now we move on, or rather back, to the year 1492. The, not even remotely first, explorer to come to America, Christopher Columbus, naturally, began his adventures by slaughtering hundreds of Native Americans, upon arrival to America, and forcing those who remained into slavery, as well as converting them into ‘Christianity’. The

massacre did not end there, no. From that point on, Native Americans were frequently peered at — by the intruding Europeans — as savages and problems to be eliminated. At the least, many of the Natives remained in their homelands — that hadn’t been pushed out by the increasing white man. This did not last all that long. Only 200 years later in 1838, Native Americans were shoved completely off their remaining portions of land they had inhabited for thousands of years and into Oklahoma. The five tribes that were deemed civilized were squeezed into one unwanted piece of land, into lands they knew not how to farm, hunt, or survive upon, hundreds of miles away from where they originated. Between the Creeks and Cherokees, over 8,500 Native Americans died from this brutal forced removal. The government promised no more disturbances, but as we all know, the people’s hunger for power and land overcame their morality, and sooner rather than later, even that was not enough for the white man. My heart is truly moved by the persecution of this culture, not only because of the appalling acts inflicted upon them but also being that those were my people. The very people that participated in the mass genocide of so many Native Americans, contributed in bringing me to life with the very persons they oppressed! On both sides of gene pools, I have Native American ancestry. This fills me with so much pride for the culture I was born into, but so much sorrow for the sins of my people’s past.  Hundreds of tribes wanting nothing but peace and prosperity for their people, thousands of tribes so vibrantly saturated in wisdom and aptitude, millions of co-existent and thriving lives, completely transposed for nothing but the worst intentions.

 

I am not the cause of prejudice against people of color, nor have I ever indulged racism’s ignorant ways, but I will forever live with the guilt my stained skin bares. The color is not me, but it is a part of me no matter how desperately I wish otherwise.  Maybe feeling shame for acts I have never committed seems illogical and ridiculous to some of you, but  if you think about it, is it really so absurd at all? If your child were to do something immeasurably wrong, would you not also feel guilt? Guilt for the fact people of lighter skin will always have the benefit of the doubt? Guilt, white will never comprehend true prejudice? Shame that color could ever be such a crucial determiner in how the lives of human beings turned out? Remorse for evil done, so passionately, for such an extended period of time, largely by one one awful color. You should. Perhaps, if not for every point, at least one, for light-skinned folks so casually go about their days with privilege. Not even conscious of this irrefutable true fact, often times. Maybe accepting these wrong doings of my ancestors does not change a thing, but I hardly believe refuting all responsibility and awareness makes any greater of a difference.

 

So much blood was shed, too much blood. White, no longer was the color it used to be with each person it — so unjustly — mutilated and/or enslaved, in any way. There is not one being to blame the offenses of the past, being that an entire nation came together, as one, in something that was far greater than just a plain hatred… It was truly malice. A purposeful infliction of harm amongst so many God-given, skin tones. As a white woman — I am privileged, I am privileged, I am privileged. I cannot and will not deny this. Thankfully,  my color is not my definition. I find no pleasure in wearing the color that murdered, raped, and enslaved millions of innocent men, women, and children, but I am grateful all of us hold so much more to us than our surfaces. We get to choose how we change and will grown from the wrongs of the past. The color should not be what makes us. We should make the color.

 

Have you experienced any prejudices, yourself? How do you feel about my opinion of my skin? Do you hold a bit of shame or guilt for sins of past persons? Never be afraid to question or comment! Also, just so you know, if I get one comment about how white isn’t a color, I swear I am going to lose it.. Until next time!

 

Citations: http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/teachers/lesson1c.html

http://www.cyberlearning-world.com/nhhs/project/totears.htm

http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-controversy

http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/trail-of-tears

http://www.dts.edu/read/how-to-seek-unity-in-diversity-first-steps-elizabeth-woodson/

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