by Judy M McCutcheon
“You all are sons of slaves.” Those were the words said to me by my African friend.
He said that to me at a time in my life when I would have burned your house down and walk away in my stilettos smoking a cigarette. So, I don’t have to explain the type of argument that ensued. You see, I was offended that he thought he was better than me. This is the type of “dis-ease” that has plagued the black community for centuries. We believe that we are better than the next Black person based on several imagined reasons, but the biggest culprit is – “shades of black.” As an impressionable young girl, I would often hear about the plight of the Black American, and my thoughts were always, “why don’t they get over it already, slavery was so long ago.” I would also engage in discussions, where I would proudly announce that I was not a slave, nor were my parents or grandparents, so why do I need to take on that fight. Writing this and thinking about my blissful ignorance at the time is making me tired. Sadly, many black people feel the same way today. Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, the most I knew about racism was what existed between Blacks and Indians.
Here I am half a century later, and the race conversation is more intense than ever. Whole cities are burning, and protests are being held all over the world in support of Black lives. When I see some of the comments from black people, I cringe because I know now that we have lost our place. When I hear Black people saying yes, we get your point now go back to work; I know that we have not only lost our place, but we do not have a full understanding of the issues. And that’s because we do not have a thorough understanding of who we are. I believe that the only way we could get a comprehensive understanding of the current problems is to learn our history. This article is by no means a history lesson, but it is meant to help you take a more in-depth look into your history so that you can get intimate with who you are and why these issues are still poignant.
So here are my thoughts on why I think that the Black Lives Matter movement is relevant now and will always be relevant. Black People, whether African American, Afro-Caribbean, or Black anywhere in the world, are the only ones who have been taken forcibly from their homeland. We have been stripped of our names, our religions, and our culture. We are the only ones whose history has been erased as if we never existed before slavery. We are the only ones who have been forced to take on a new identity, new culture, new religion. Which African you know with the surname Jack? Yet that is my surname. There has been a systemic consciousness to divide us so that they can conquer us. And we have bought into it lock, stock, and barrel. If we took an honest look at our collective selves, you would see what I’m talking about.
Have you heard about the Blue Vein Society or the Brown Paper Bag test? These ridiculous ideas were perpetuated by lighter-skinned Black people to keep the darker-skinned black people out of schools, universities, and social clubs. The issue of lighter and darker skin exists right within our families. What about our shopping habits? How many of us consciously support black businesses or Black women-owned businesses? Black women experience a special kind of “hell” within our communities. There seems to be a kind of antipathy towards us working together and supporting each other. I can tell you I’ve gotten lots of love and support from other Black women, but I got a “beating” from them as well. Even in death, we get the shitty end of the stick.
I understand that the murder of George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But what about all the other female straws that were piled onto the camel’s back? What about Breonna Taylor and all the other Black women who died due to police brutality? My chant is for us to get our collective acts together. I am asking all of us collectively to clean our proverbial houses. Look within and see where there are prejudices and biases towards each other and remove it. Let us ensure that this #BlackLivesMatter movement is the movement that brings us together and dismantles systemic racism.
Therefore, if we are going to hold the White community to a standard, which we should, then we as Black people need to hold ourselves to that same standard. Don’t tell me that I could call you “Nigga” or “Nigger” and it’s okay coming from me. Respect is respect, and if it is an offensive word, then I refuse to accept it from anyone Black or White. We need to take the log out of our eyes before we seek to chastise others for the same things we are doing. For too long we have been wilfully and consciously treated us as non-humans, please let us not perpetuate that within our community. I was doing some research and found a game that was popular at fairgrounds as early as 1880, and as recently as the 1950s called “hit the nigger baby.” This is one of the most unsettling and offensive parts of America’s history. This is the vilest act to date that I’ve seen from White people. So, I’m sorry, we won’t go away. The protests won’t stop until you stop. This article is a plea to my Black Community. I am asking that we do some introspection so that the necessary healing can take place. We must move past all the indoctrinations of separatism that have plagued us for centuries. #AllShadesofBlackLivesMatter.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net