Mixed. That’s the category I fall into, being Portuguese and Angolan. Race was never really an issue for me when I was younger. I never really cared about skin colour or really noticed it, considering I have black and white family members. I quickly realized that skin colour and appearance really affect the way people view you.
The first time I realized this, was back when my mom still did my hair, in pre-school. My teachers would take my hair out of the hairstyles my mom did, because they wanted to have a better look at it. Their ‘fascination’ with my hair resulted in me feeling like an animal. They would sit me in a chair and stare and touch however they pleased. Even at such a young age having people touch my hair without asking made me uncomfortable, I’m not something you can pet because you’re curious.
As I got older the little remarks about my appearance began. Whenever I wore hoop earrings some people would say I looked ghetto and laughed like it was some kind of joke. Why is it that I look ‘ghetto’ with hoop earrings but someone lighter than me doesn’t? The word ‘ghetto’ isn’t an insult, but it’s always been associated with black people in a negative way. Why was the idea of me looking like a ghetto black person so amusing?
If you know me, you know I wear my hair in a bun or ponytail 365 days a year. If you don’t, then yes I really do. I’ve worn my hair like this for the past 7 years, because I never learned to love my curls. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to have straight long hair. I never learned to embrace it, because I was too busy caring about what other people thought of it.
I’ve had someone tell me that guys thought I had a pretty face, but the fact that I wear my hair up everyday was a turn off. How ridiculous is that whole statement? It’s a part of you that you can’t change, you’re born with what you have. This person told me this like I could go home and come back the next day with straight hair, and have guys all over me.
The worst thing anyone has ever said concerning my race, was actually someone I considered a close friend. I asked this friend if they wanted to come over for dinner to which they replied with the most offensive comment ‘No I’d rather not, your mom is probably making crazy African food’. I sat silent staring at them for a bit, in shock at how easily that sentence came out of their mouth. So many things were implied with such a simple sentence. Was that an assumption based on my skin colour? Is that what ignorant people think African people eat? Is this supposed to be a funny joke? What the fuck does that even mean? Yet none of these questions came out of my mouth, I sat silent and uncomfortable.
There’s no excuse for being culturally ignorant in the 21st Century, if you are, it’s a conscious choice you’re making. Lets accept and appreciate the fact that there is so much cultural diversity and not treat it like it’s a bad thing to have skin that’s too dark or hair that’s too curly. No one should ever have to feel ashamed of who they are.