Friday, 25 November 2011

I am not Black . . . I am Brown - Skinned

These were the words spoken to me with such confidence from my 6 year old cousin that I had to pause and stare at her dumb-founded. This confident and bold statement made by someone so young has stuck with me from the first time I heard her say this to me roughly a year ago.

My little cousin is *in my opinion* a dark-browned tone, miniature beauty with features that reflects my mother’s Nigerian lineage, and is currently living in Dubai (with a brief stint in Singapore). Her mother (my aunt) recognising the fact that her daughters were likely to be the darkest skinned children in her class reinforced the ideology in her children that they were not black, as the colour black literally means the absence of colour, they were dark brown and they should NEVER let anyone try to demean them by calling them black and instead should reply.

When she said this to me after I described myself as black, I was shocked!!! How could I be corrected a child, I could practically have given birth to?! I informed her that I WAS Black and so was she. Excitedly she ran and grabbed an item black in colour (I think it was a cushion) and held it against my skin and said,

‘This is black, you are not black. You are brown skinned’.

This got me thinking, is it my choice to call myself black as a racial label or heritage choice or rather is it some other person's imposition that I call myself black to show what background I come from.

Growing up dark skinned in England is probably a lot easier than growing up dark skinned in America as the levels of racism over there seems to be quite mind-boggling and over here I can honestly say that I haven’t really experienced racism in anyway towards me. Nevertheless I feel that ‘being black’ is regarded by most as an identity rather than a colour, *anyone who has ever used the excuse of ‘BMT – Black Man Time’ for being late knows what I mean by this* yet why are dark skinned people the only people who readily accept an identity associated with a colour? And even worse why do we try to impose that said identity on others, like I tried to do with my cousin? If I went around labelling individuals of Oriental or Asian Descent by the colour of their skin or eye shape, I would be looking at several, never ending lawsuits

Moreover, I really can’t stand when people describe others of a Caucasian nature as white, as that is simply not true. There are spectrums of shades, tones and pale or dark colourings which should not be limited to one colour . . . especially if it’s the same shade as a sheet of A4 paper. Labelling someone as one colour is just too vague. It turns very unique people with various beliefs and backgrounds into a dried up Paper-mache lump breeding racial inequalities. In fact if we stopped referring to each other by colour the large majority of racial tension would be obsolete

So when someone asks me what I am, I refuse to use 'Black'. It’s just too narrow and excluding and doesn’t describe me at all as a person, instead I will answer

‘I am not black, I am Dark- skinned’

So what do you think? How do you feel about labels on your ethnicity or skin colour? What do you use and what do you avoid?