Prentend, Ms Heiskell?
Patrick Hill

Mr Hill, you know what keeps a lot of the dissension and resentment about race doing? Responses like yours that try to rob someone of telling the truth about their experiences by dismissing them as “having a chip on their shoulder.” Have you reconsidered YOUR perspective?

I’ll give a couple of personal examples: I’m a dark skinned black woman. Throughout much of my childhood and into young adulthood, I was ridiculed for my dark skin (by people of ALL races). Compliments were masked with insults like “you’re so pretty for a dark skinned girl” or “if you want to stay that pretty, be sure you stay out of the sun!” It took me a long time to grow to appreciate my skin color and trust that God made NO mistakes in blessing me with it. I have written essays and poetry on several aspects of my journey, including times I hated my skin color, tried to find skin bleaching products, looked in the mirror and wished I were white, masked my pain through humor…and ultimately came around to embracing my skin color and all of the experiences it shaped (good and bad). Your perspective views my sharing as “having a chip on my shoulder.” But you know what it is? It’s MY story on how I learned to overcome insecurities, dismiss haters, and love myself. I share it frequently, hoping others pay attention to the power of their words AND that other dark skinned women facing similar struggles can be inspired to love themselves too.

My family is from the Jim Crow south. From as far back as I can remember, we would spend the occasional evenings at a family reunion with the elders in the family sharing some of the horrors they have experienced. Not because they “have a chip on their shoulder.” But so those of us in the “younger generation” can know the lineage we come from…a lineage of SURVIVORS who fought for EVERYTHING they have, including dignity, respect, and their basic civil rights. Every time I think I have it hard, I think of my grandmother who couldn’t DREAM of living in my neighborhood or even voting in an election until WELL into her adult years because IT WAS AGAINST THE LAW, and I give thanks for her being such a survivor (and I gain perspective on my fairly small problem in comparison). You see “a chip on her shoulder.” I see inspiration.

Those aren’t the same experiences as white people. Sorry, you can try to argue with that all day long, but THAT IS A FACT. It’s also a fact that it doesn’t make their experiences any less valuable than mine (or vice versa). They are just different and of EQUAL value and importance, which means they should EQUALLY be heard and appreciated (even if we don’t like them or are uncomfortable by them.) DIFFERENT IS OK. We were created with differences, and for good reason. It’s when we place a VALUE on those differences that the fighting begins.

And yes I have lived in and experienced many environments. You are right, in some environments, race and color have lesser meaning. But does that mean we don’t talk about our experiences in environments where it DID matter? That would silence a LOT of people. THAT’S what you want?

Mr Hill, trying to silence or belittle people for sharing an experience you don’t like sends a message that those experiences don’t matter, shouldn’t matter, and shouldn’t be heard. THAT breeds resentment. And who gets to judge what experiences matter and deserve to be heard? YOU?

Overall, I really hope you’ll reconsider your perspective and realize not every person sharing how their race/skin color impacted an experience is complaining or “has a chip on their shoulder.” At times they are vulnerably sharing their journey in hopes of inspiring others on their own.

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