Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Every now and then I get sucked into the comment section of an iG post or a discussion post on a particular topic for hours. Recently, I was looking through discussion topics on Wuthering Heights and stumbled upon the topic of Heathcliff's ethnicity. Commenters compared opinions on whether Heathcliff was black or rather Indian or a darker-toned Caucasian gypsy. I found the conversation fascinating and began wondering myself how I pictured Heatthcliff when I first read of him (I don't recall). Before I knew it I'd spent nearly an hour sifting through. It was this comment that tore me out of my information-crazed revere:
Didn't Heathcliff place a lock of his hair in _[spoiler]? A Lock of his hair. He wasn't black. More likely a dark/swarthy skinned Caucasian with an appearance like a gypsy. 
First, I reread the comment just to be sure I had read it properly. Then I became enraged. WHAT DOES SHE MEAN?!?! How exactly does the fact that Heathcliff placed a lock of hair somewhere serve as definitive evidence that he was not black? Do blacks not have locks of hair? Can we not cut off said locks and place them inside things? Have we not hands?! Of course, I recognized that her statement was made out of misinformation. Simply someone who was completely uninformed and ignorant of other people. But to be honest, that did nothing to quell my frustration. I just did not get it. Where along the line did this young girl get the notion that black people are not human?
Heathcliff depicted as a black man in the 2011 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights 
Once I got off my high horse, I had a thought - a much more tranquil and controlled thought :) What good does my rage do? Yeah sure, at the moment, it made me feel a little better. I can't deny that. They say getting angry and letting anger out does nothing. They lie. It helped. But it didn't help the world or society as a whole. The way to help is to inform. And I truly believe that the culprit of so much is misinformation or no information at all. So, here are a few things to keep in mind, a few things that aren't meant to be insulting but sometimes are.

Don't ask to touch my hair.

By this I mean, asking to touch me on the account of your cultural curiosity. Let me explain. I chemically relax my hair so this isn't recent, but I've been asked and many of my friend's with natural hair have been asked: "Can I touch your hair? Is it soft like cotton or like a poodle?" Cue record scratch. Isn't all hair soft? It's just a really weird request. I mean, if I just got my hair blown out it's different. But don't ask to touch me on account of my skin color or hair texture or anything like that. You probably can't imagine someone would do this, right? I know, but it happens much more frequently than you think. Check out this Buzzfeed video that depicts so many of these scenarios in a very funny way. Gosh, I love Buzzfeed videos!

Try not to be uncomfortable.

I use to feel really uncomfortable mentioning about my race around people of other races. Strange, right? It always seemed that it made others uncomfortable and so I'd stay away from it. I got over this feeling, but every now and then, when I mention being on CP time (colored people time = always being late) or reference my year-long tan, I can see the surprise on the faces of some people around me. Just remember, it's all okay! There's no need to feel awkward or uncomfortable when the topic comes up. Just go with it like it's a normal conversation, because, well, it is.

"I don't see (think of) you as black." 

To which I respond, well, why the hell not? Don't say this. Pleaaasseee, don't. Because although you may intend it as some sort of compliment, it's not. You're essentially saying that you don't see me. I'm black. It's evident, it's not changing. So see it. See me for me. Don't strip me of my blackness. Acknowledge it the way you would any other feature - pale skin, brown hair, blue eyes, long legs - and attribute the same value to it. Essentially, say "I see you as black but I also see you as tall, fit, pretty, intelligent, all of the wonderful adjectives." Except don't actually say that aloud. That'd be weird :)

Eeep! That was heavy. I know it's a heavy topic for a lot of people, but the only real way to affect change is to talk about things. And I decided in this post to talk about real things and real issues. So, if you have anything to add to the conversation, please please please I implore you to comment below.


  1. I love this post! And I applaud you for doing something with your anger. :) I honestly cannot believe she posted that. I mean, really?! How does the ability to place a lock of hair somewhere determine race?

    I actually have curly hair, so people are ALWAYS asking to touch it. Or they just outright touch it. There's just something that makes them want to play with my curls. I also come from a culture where if they admire your hair (or any attribute), they believe they have to touch it to prevent you from being jinxed or having something bad happen.

  2. very interesting post girl. seriously, what an idiot thinking he wasn't black because of the lock of hair. wtf?! i honestly didn't picture him as black, i think i pictured him as ralph fiennes because i knew about that movie, lol.
    i can't believe people ask to touch your hair, thats so weird.
    as for the 'not seeing you as black' i completely understand how that would annoy you.. and I don't mean this to anger you, but I don't see anyone as black, or white. i see people as people. Perhaps because I grew up somewhere a lot less racist, because we have so many different cultures and colours, I just see a person as a person. I don't want to strip you of your blackness, but.. I don't know to form this properly, so please know I am not trying to offend. I just see people as people, regardless of their skin colour. where i'm from we have so many (so many!!) different cultures and races that there is probably 1 black person to every something else.. like we have all the races, so that if you grabbed 20 people, you'd have 20 different races, 1 of which being black. Does that make sense? So I don't think of that black person as being different, or more special (or not special!) compared to any of the other people. obviously it's different in the states (especially KY, jeepers...) but I just don't understand viewing people different at all. I had blonde hair growing up, the only blonde in my family (including aunts uncles etc) and my mum always said if i were to judge someone on the colour of their skin or anything else, then my family could judge me for the colour of my hair (which of course i didn't want!).
    anyway sorry for the rambles! hope i didn't offend and you still like me ;)

  3. Thank you for this post! So many people are just clueless about life. I love those buzz feed videos as well! Thanks again for sharing.

  4. I love this post, girl. I think it's insanely brave of you to post it, and honestly, that comment the ignorant girl made on IG made my blood boil. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard - misinformation or not, like.. shut up. Race and culture is something to be celebrated and discussed so that ignorance doesn't perpetuate. Also, swarthy? Really? (Now I'm hating).
    When I watched the trailer for "Dear White People," all I could think of was how many times I heard people say those same exact things and how infuriating it is. I think color blindness is another part of the problem because by pretending it doesn't exist also strips us of who we are and where we came from/things that make us unique. My best friend is black, and she gets told she "acts white," all the time. It's so infuriating to even dive into what that even begins to suggest.
    Very thought provoking post, love!

  5. hahaha have we not hands? Babe I love you! Ignorance is an special kind of gift. I often sit and wonder about people. In Australia people often come up and simply touch my niece's and nephews hair. IT BOTHERS ME TO NO END!!!!!!!!! They say they just want to feel it and to see what it feels like. Ummm does he come up to you and touch your hair? It really upsets me for some reason.

    Now as to your comment about people not seeing you as black. I am black but In my every day life, because I live in a multi-racial place, it is not even an issue and I genuinely do NOT see race first. I think its because of the place/way I grew up. I see a happy person, sad person, beautiful person, intelligent person etc. so it actually bothers me when people see me and define me first as black. I am proud to be black but add some other descriptions on there as well. :)

    You rock though!

  6. I loved this statement of yours: "Don't strip me of my blackness." Great post!


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