The Meghan Markle Dilemma: Am I Black?
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their engagement to the world in late 2017. Most folks were mildly interested to downright delighted. A few took it as a personal attack on their meager existence, pulled out the “race card,” and posted memes calling folks niggers.
My family is what North Americans like to call “biracial.” So, of course, one of my sister’s friends, incorrigibly attracted to drama, sent her a message. He attached a Racist Meme for her convenience.
“See how they treat Meghan Markle?” wrote my sister’s friend, “You need to accept yourself as black because the WORLD sees you as black.”
I’ll state my goal here: I’d like to raise the bar on how we talk about one another. I’d like to step OVER the Race Bar. The one that says, “Black and Proud” or “White and Proud” or “Whatever and Proud.” We are NOT black or white. None of us. “Black” and “White” are the Great Lies of North America.
It’s totally cool that we know what we look like. It’s totally cool that we like the way we look. I don’t have a problem with that. I like the way I look, too. But even if we’re JUST describing the way we look, “black” and “white” are lazy, inaccurate descriptors. And if we’re describing our heritage…those color tags aren’t even close to the truth.
I don’t call myself “black.” I call myself Adina. I call myself American. I call myself a part of my dad’s Family Tribe (African). Maybe even part of my mom’s Family Tribe (German). I call myself a million descriptive things that reflect who I am and how I choose to express myself.
When I describe my complexion, I use words like “brown,” “caramel,” “butterscotch,” and “sandalwood.” When I describe my heritage, I use words that may be hard for some folks to understand- African, German, English, French.
I like the viewpoint of W.E.B. Du Bois: Separating American people into groups called “black” and “white” is a dangerous ploy. It ignores human diversity. It creates imaginary division. And let’s be honest- it has no basis in reality. Its usefulness is relegated to an obscenely old and tired social caste system.
So, please hear me: I am not trying to distance myself from my African-American peoples. I’m happy with my African heritage. I’m also happy with my European heritage. But neither of those defines me.
I am not trying to “be something that I’m not.” I’m trying to be what I AM.
To be clear, I associate the term “Black culture” with warmth. I associate it with laughter, with open and honest conversation, with strong hugs from people who sincerely love me. I associate Black culture with strength. Beauty. Perseverance.
Most of all, I associate Black culture with trust. I instinctively trust people with brown skin more quickly than I trust people with fair skin. If you have fair skin, and you are reading this, understand my honesty. I don’t think fair-skinned people are less trustworthy. I simply carry more of an implicit trust for people who look more like me.
And this is the root of most prejudice. I recognize that. I fight it.
I choose not to refer to myself or others as “black” or “white” because I am resisting a cultural norm that I think is harmful. Whether your ethnic background is European, African, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Asian, Latino, or _________, I will refer to you by your name. I will describe your looks with words that require thought. I will look at you and recognize you based on qualities that belong only to you.
Not to a group.
Second, the few people who call themselves white and yell “nigger!” are not so omnipresent and powerful that they get to be called The World.
They are not the world.
They are a few sad, controlling people.
Third, these few sad, controlling people pretend that they look down on people based on color. But they don’t. This is their great Lie.
They don’t see me or you or my sister or Meghan Markle as niggers.
They use words like nigger because it is an easy trigger word that carries a sense of dominance and subordination in American culture. And they really need to convince themselves that they have power.
The truth is —
They see themselves as weak. Voiceless. They see themselves as poor. They see themselves as ugly. Insecure. Powerless. And they sure as hell don’t want to lose the one thing that always gave them a sense of belonging to the “right crowd.” Their belief that they are white.
They see ME as someone who “should be” an easy target. They see me as an opportunity to escape their feelings of pain and anger. If they can make me feel worse, then maybe they’ll feel better.
That’s just sad. And too bad.
I reject their attempts to control how I see myself. I want to play but I can’t. I feel great. They can hold their bitter, angry feelings in their shaking hands and learn to deal with them. Or not.
I would encourage you to reject their jargon as well.
Dysfunctional people don’t determine who you are. Even if they name call, withhold jobs, screw up schools…refuse to value your life. I get it.
I have experienced the rage of dysfunctional people who call themselves white in this country. Because of this, I’m realistic.
My first CONCERN is always for my safety and the safety of my children.
Racist people are present and they are dangerous.
But racist people exist in every culture. There are weak, angry, powerless people in EVERY CULTURE. In this country, there is a power balance which favors racists from European backgrounds. But if we’re honest…deep down, we’re all prejudiced in some way.
We definitely need to talk about these issues. However, I don’t believe the issues of race and racism should become our identity. They shouldn’t comprise the whole of our vision. America needs to move UP.
I don’t accept that Life is defined by a delusional set of rules that some crazy people invented so they could make more money off their cotton farms. And I won’t waste my life trying to fit in based on their sad, twisted theology.
Because people who live by these rules are dysfunctional.
Why should I live my life based on the whims of diseased people?!
We can raise the bar.
We can do better.
Forget about trying to make everyone fit into a box. If you’re in a box right now, please climb out. Winter is coming and it’s drafty in there.
Broaden your vision.
After asking the question, “What are you?” or “What ethnicity are you?” or “Which ethnic group makes your skin/hair/eyes look like that?”
Why not move on to the next set of questions.
“What are you passionate about?”
“What are you inspired by right now?”
Honestly, if you are bold enough to ask about someone’s ethnicity, then you are perfectly suited to learn who that person is. Understanding the person beside you takes a lot more effort than knowing why their complexion is tan or fair.
Here is a list of topics to get you started on meaningful conversations:
TOPICS TO HELP YOU DETERMINE OTHER PEOPLE’S BOXES
-Who is your favorite person in the world? How do they inspire you?
-When people look at you, what do you hope they see? (besides your ethnicity)
-How do you want to Change the World?
-What are you working on?
-What do you want to become?
-What are you learning right now?
-What memory makes you feel happy?
These are awesome examples of social visions that expand beyond forcing others to accept YOUR definition of who they are. Know this: cramming them in a box that YOU easily understand makes you happy. But it is so very ineffective.
All of us have the potential to be Great Human Beings. We have the potential to create meaningful connections with one another.
So, please — tell others who you really are. Take the time to find out who other people are.
Prejudice is with us. It is part of the human psyche.
But you can change your own mindset. You can contribute goodness to mankind. You can build community. You can inspire thought. You can give someone the gift of real, human connection.
I want to know: What great thoughts are brewing in your consciousness? Who are YOU? Tell me- I’ll listen. (My email is Adina.email@example.com)
And if you see a troll is using derogatory language to describe a young lady of mixed heritage who is engaged to a guy called Prince Harry, think to yourself,
“Well, that is interesting. Look at that troll’s slave mentality. Welp…on to more important matters. How will I make a difference today?”
(edited 3/6/18 and 5/23/18 to correct minor errors)