Banner © Laura Callaghan
I am black. I am white. I am strong and I am bright. I am me. I am me. I am me.
Not too long ago, I had a discussion with my cousin about the implications of color. It is her belief that race is baseless, that it causes more grief than glee, and that we should spend our remaining days relishing in love as opposed to pigment.
She is not wrong. I am only in my second year of college and I have heard the phrase “race is a social construct” more times than I can count. Scientifically speaking, there is no such thing. Rather, it is a social hierarchy built on the premise of perception and thereby oppression. But we all know that, right?
What most intrigued me about this conversation was her outlook on labels and her urgency to rid the world of such. For my cousin, to focus on any one group is to further the divide within humanity. In other words, activities such as an interview giving light to women of color contributes to the dismemberment of society.
This is where I disagree. As someone who has often contemplated her own mixing of privilege and oppression, the idea of stripping the world of media that celebrates my complexion is gut wrenching. A pivotal role in my identity is and has always been the color of my skin. My parents, the original Romeo and Juliet, grounded my beauty in being different and it is because of that I am able to have pride in something so often forbidden.
Pride. This is the feeling of greatness in the face of adversity. Though I understand my cousin’s dreams of a world in which race cannot hinder or advance opportunity, I strongly believe in celebrating the gifts you are given (i.e. black beauty, muslim pride, Latinx love, etc.). For me, this is not a condemnation of white skin or even a promotion of superiority, but is instead a recognition of beauty in its entirety.
With this new of wave political correctness, our society is undergoing a series of dilemmas never encountered before. Essentially we are shifting from the unfiltered and often insensitive dialogue to that of complete restriction. And while it is absolutely imperative to recognize the concerns and needs of others, I pray we do not shy away from our differences as these traits are what makes us beautiful.
This is to say I want freedom. I want justice. I want equality. But most importantly, I want empathy.
I fear a world in which something as glorious as my skin color will be overshadowed by the fear of stepping on eggshells. I fear that we are fooling ourselves into thinking the war is over when it has just begun. We have not progressed beyond the point of talking about race. This social construct is still very much a hierarchy and in order to combat it, we must use it as weapon of knowledge.
My cousin stressed the importance of forgoing the past in order to be in the present, yet history is all we have. The mutilation of Natives, the entrapment of blacks, the targeting of Muslims, and the disregard for Latinx people, Asians, and those alike are all prime examples of the nature of our nation. Like a stunted snake, our society has failed to shed its skin of impurities.
We want to move forward, but we must first acknowledge the brutality thrust upon our people. Until we have done them just – until we recognize their contributions, culture, and camaraderie – we will never ensure our legacy. History will never stop repeating. Society will never progress.
I want to emphasize the necessity of inclusion. The reason why we stress the matter of our lives and the appreciation of our culture is not for the supremacy, but for the solidarity. For the love of our differences, we must choose unity.
The significance of representation is in the eye of the child. When they turn on a TV, when they pick up a book, when they view our world with such blazing optimism, we owe it to them to pull through. To embody all that is inclusive, kind, and otherwise, it is essential to provide them with the right tools. Provide them with the knowledge, confidence, and empathy they deserve. Even if it means uncovering the grimly grey past, living in color is all the more worthy.