This Issue of Race- White, Black and Everything In-between


Photo courtesy thegrio.com
Photo courtesy thegrio.com
I am reading Chimamanda Adichie‘s new book “Americanah”, it is a great book! Very funny, beautiful narrative and I can so relate to it. However, it has made me aware of how blissfully “far” I am from this issue of race and racism in my day-to-day reality. She, through the character- Ifemelu, describes how until she got to America, she did not consider herself black or white, just considered herself Nigerian. There was no race, per se and how she found that different when she got to America; in America, she became black! You should read the book, it’s not a thesis on race or racism, it’s actually more a love and coming-of-age story that spans 3 continents and how they are experienced depending on where you are coming from/the eyes you are looking through!
Anyhow, perhaps as a result of this new-found awareness, I noticed something funny in conversation with my little one- he likes a Disney program on TV called Jessie! Jessie is the story of a multi-racial family (think Angelina & Brad Pitt‘s) with 4 kids, 2 of whom are American-White (Chimamanda’s story says this is important), one is Indian and one is black. So my little one is telling me about something funny that happens in Jessie and he says “mummy do you know Zuri in Jessie?” I say no, “she’s the brown one” he says. “Brown?” “Yes mummy,dark brown like daddy, not light brown like you!” Hmm…
I remember one Christmas at Casa Del Papa, when a French patron of the resort’s restaurant got really angry with a waiter and while speaking to him, he turned red! My little one saw him and burst into tears, “he turned red, he turned red” he said afraid and pointing. I had to take him to a corner and explain to him, that because the man was angry, he got flushed, as it happens when we are all angry but because his skin is very light coloured, you can see it change colour. But to this day, he refers to that man as the red man and to his white friends as pink and to Ravi, Zuri’s Indian brother in Jessie as yellow!
As I “hear” his innocence and see through his eyes, I think “if only”. If only we continued to see through the eyes of children (in some respects), if only colour didn’t matter except for descriptive purposes. To look beyond skin and see heart, to see what joins rather than what separates! To aspire as individuals to be the very best we can be- knowing that your past only determines your future to the degree that you allow it! I also thought how interesting it is that our identity seems to shift with our environment and circumstances. But more importantly, my dominant thought is how do you remain “you” regardless of where you are?  How do you stay true to yourself and your values while keeping your mind open to learning new things? How do you become that positive agent of change, rather than taking sides or being on the side lines? How do you not take the side that nature has put you on? How? The questions keep tumbling around in my mind…
I am looking to discuss “Americanah” just for fun- what was interesting, what you could relate to and as I am finding it so hilarious, what you found most funny? Anyone interested? Leave a comment and we can start it off by getting you to write a guest blog here… Ciao! Don’t forget to be awesome!

6 replies to “This Issue of Race- White, Black and Everything In-between

  1. Its difficult to pick one funny thing as I found myself laughing at the way people think and somethings were just all too familiar. I found it funny when Ifemelu went into the store with Ginika (i hope i got the name right) and she wondered why they just couldn’t call the assistant black to differentiate. I always remember that when I go to a store and I’m asked if anyone helped me and I start smiling sheepishly (I’m pretty sure they think I’m crazy sometimes)

    I happen to have natural hair and i was getting my hair braided and the lady braiding asked me why I have natural hair and was advising me to relax my hair. She described it as ‘sufferness’ and immediately my mind went to Ifemelu getting her hair done.

    The world will certainly be a better place if we all had the innocent minds of kids.
    Ok bye. I talk too much.

    1. Lol! I like people who talk, at least you know how they feel- no guessing or mind reading. Lol! I agree with you, this need to be politically correct and have an appropriate label, (which can’t be called a label because that’s inappropriate) is quite tiring! Thank you for stopping by. Have you done a post on maintaining your natural hair? And how to style it? I’ll love to see that.

  2. Loved the book Americanah! I remember my nephew once asked his mum why he was dark brown and his younger brother light brown. I also find it very funny that he would he refers to Caucasians as being peat and not white..lol.

    You’ve got to love the way kids see things, for them its just a way of describing because let’s face it ‘white’ people are not exactly white and neither are ‘black’ people black…lol

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