As many of you know or may not know, I was born in Jamaica— an island with an ancestry of both Taino and Africans. Before I migrated to America, I never labeled myself as black, non-white, non-hispanic because those terms did not exist in my vocabulary or culture– I was Jamaican and then I came here. For many immigrants there is a unwritten language that you have to know here without being directly told that the language even exist which is to categorize yourself. One of those subtle languages you are expected to know is the language and the history of race in America. Race in America is extremely sensitive, there is almost no way to desensitize the terrible implications of slavery.
First, I must say that as an outsider, it is unique paradigm to see, you are a part of it but in many ways your are not. There is the white world and the black world– no mater what country you are from you are forced to choose a category. I don’t make the rules, that just how it is in America. We are encouraged to create a three fold color scheme where white, black and shades of grey exist but the reality is the predispose and reinforced dichotomy only exist with two shades and the American media reinforces it every single second they have. And for any second you think that it does not exist then you are too naive or you have been privileged to have not seen the murky waters.
There are people who are forced to categorize, label or identify, whatever they are calling it now, as one or the other and then there are those who identify as raceless individuals. Not to discount their reasoning on identifying as a “raceless individual” because it’s quite a utopian view, however let me remind you that this is America we are talking about. You cannot afford to choose because the choosing has already been done for you, the choice has been made. In Lisa Lebduska article “Racist Visual Rhetoric and Images of Trayvon Martin” she toys with the idea “Whether we see, what we see, and how we see it is determined by tacit cultural conventions and regulations.” (1) The truth is or at least my truth is, you can’t change it because you can’t undo slavery, you can’t undo racial tension, the eyes can’t unsee it, you can’t rewrite the past and you can’t change the past. You can’t prevail in America as a raceless individual because it won’t allow you to, you have to choose black or white or by some chance you may be both but nonetheless you still have to choose. You are not afforded the luxury of not seeing color or any features that expose someones’ ancestry because the American conventional views does not allow it. The ways in which we see a person, and how we see them are influenced and will continue to be influenced by the traditional ways of thinking of the already established, non-changing paradigm of America.
So where do we go from here you may be asking and my answer is I don’t know.