February is Black History Month. I haven't really celebrated that part of the month in years. Thinking about my life and my history conjures up some life experiences while living in an environment of racism. I am still learning from those past experiences. I have brought a vulnerable side of myself to the table today. I am sharing a photo that I have only shared with about 4 people in 60 years. It is a part of my personal Black History.
I have not always liked being me as if being me was not enough. Living in my world, as a child, and comparing my life to what the life of others looked like, made this true for me. We were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. We were in, perhaps, the middle lower class. My parents worked hard but were not paid much. We learned to be thankful for what we had and made it work. There were so many others with the same plight as ours. However, I was still aware that so many others were not. Many of those others helped me to know this, as well.
Because of the color of my skin, once again, I felt like I wasn’t enough. I was forced to deal with this on two fronts. I was made to feel this anytime I had to walk down the street in my little southern town or went to a store for a nominal purchase. It was particularly noticeable if I had to use the restroom when I was away from home. Daily life was a constant reminder that I was good but not quite good enough to have the enjoyments and privileges of those perceived to be better based upon the color of their skin. Discrimination was blatant and outright. I understood it. There were no false assumptions or second guessing it. You accepted it or you moved north. Choosing to live with it was a constant reminder that you were not good enough.
The second front of discrimination was more subtle. Everyone pretended it was not there, but we all knew quietly that it was. It continues yet today but not as much. It is a quiet discrimination one experiences within our race if you are the darker skin Black People. We treated each other differently based upon the color of our skin. You knew in school that the light-skinned people were the smartest and better people because they were always at the head of the class. They were always chosen first. They were treated just a little bit better so you knew they were, better. Their families were the higher class blacks in the community. They were the ones hand-picked by the white society and local government to represent the black community. It did not hurt them to have racial blending. However, if you were not a light skinned black person back in the day, you weren’t quite as good as the others, so you’d better be very smart or very athletic.
I could not change who I was growing up. I could not change my family. I could not change my race or the color of my skin. Life was what it was. This was my inheritance from my ancestors who never shared their hearts with me but accepted the plight of struggle, discrimination and the feelings of not being quite enough. They did not pass any attitudes of not being grateful, nor did they pass any attitudes of anger towards others regardless of how they were made to feel.
Existing in my world, many turned to religion to find their place and self-worth. My parents found their solace in their beliefs that God would one provide a better reward than what they were able to experience here on earth. In so doing, they taught me to love everyone, no matter what. They taught me to do good and choose what is right even if I was not treated right. They taught me to take my matters of concern to God and leave them there for Him to work them out for me.
Today I turn 65 years old. I am taking some time to look back over some of my life. I am really a composite of my ancestral heritage, my culture, my race and societal placement formations as we all are. I am no exception. However, I have to look back at those impressions and formations that have contributed to who I am. Today, I am seeing myself through clearer eyes.
There are many things that I am that I cannot change. I can’t change the color of my skin. I can’t change the kinks in my hair. I can’t change my race and I cannot change the belief and connection that I have with the Divine. In fact, I have come to embrace all of these aspects of myself as I come face to face with me. I am embracing the fact that I am enough. I am coming to a greater acceptance that I don’t need to be anyone else but that it is okay to be me. I won’t stop loving others even if they don’t love me. I do not need to compare myself to anyone else to find my self-worth. Life in this existence is not a competition. We are all having personal individual experiences that need no comparisons because there can’t be any comparisons. This is what makes us all special. We all share this experience in common.
This is a new year and a new beginning for me. I think I am going to look in the mirror more and affirm the exceptional beautiful being that looks back at me. I want to let her know that she is enough. I want her to know that she is a beautiful soul inside and out. She now has my permission to just be me.
Finally, I am Loving Rebecca