• Rhema-Rheanna

The Blacker The Berry, The Deeper The Roots

I’ve had a lot of time to think and process my perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement and the world finally waking up to the injustice that has caused many Black lives to be lost within the shadows of white supremacy.

At first I found it kind of insulting to see that everyone all of a sudden had this deep care for Black lives.

As if it just started the other day. The injustice, the pain and the murder of our people.

I felt like it was a trend that companies, brands and people that profit off of the Black community were joining to stay in good standings with us.

I'm still not sure who really cares about Black lives, but I've decided that doesn’t matter any more. What's happening is a beautiful thing, though there's been a lot of pain and suffering to our community, the world can no longer pretend that they don't see what's going on. Our plight is gaining international attention.

It’s no longer just our problem.

Although I'm still a bit weary on who's really empathetic and understanding, I can't help but feel like this is the start of something new.

As a Black woman living in Canada I've had the privilege of being given many opportunities regardless of my race. Though I still have countless stories where I have experienced racial discrimination.

Going on social media the last couple of days has been very triggering for me and my mental health.

This sort of weariness and heaviness has come over me due to seeing so many people talk about the pain and suffering my community has faced. It's caused me to have to go back to the many situations where I was treated differently and unjustly due to being a dark-skinned Black woman.

My mother was a light-skinned Black woman born in Montreal Quebec, if you know anything about Montreal you'll know that it has an aggressively racist history. My mother told me stories about growing up there and the way she was treated by her classmates. On my mother's side I have an older sister who's the same complexion as her, I am literally the black sheep of the family.

But I never realized the weight my skin colour would hold within my own community and in the world.

Luckily due to what my mother experienced in Quebec she was more than ready to take on this challenge of having a dark-skinned Black daughter. From a very young age I was exposed to strong representation.

My mother made sure that I had mostly Black dolls to play with as a child.

She would constantly point out little Black cartoon characters or drawings wherever she'd see them making sure that I knew that I was seen and heard in the world.

She’d say things to me like “you know your skin colour is very beautiful right?” or “you have a very special type of complexion.” These words have stuck with me until this day.

The very first time I can remember experiencing racism must have been in grade 5.

I was living in Durham, Ontario and went outside on the yard during recess. A little white boy referred to me as “that Black girl.”

I don't know if it was the tone in his voice or the fact that I was being called out of name and singled out by colour…but something inside of me grew strong with rage and without a second thought I grabbed him by his hair and smashed his head into the portable wall. He started to cry and I was sent to the office. When I explained to the principal what had happened she sort of had this look of agreeance with me but nonetheless disregarded the real issue that was at hand.

Now that I'm older and I look back at that situation I know that little boy was too young to understand the weight that his words held. He probably didn't know that situation would stay with me into my adult years. But now that I've grown and I understand the underlying roots to racism I realize that little boy must have been taught by his parents or someone around him that it was okay to call me out of my name. He must have heard someone refer to “Black Women” in that tone and thought that was okay.

The second time I can remember experiencing racism was when I was a little girl maybe eight or nine years old. I was living with a White Foster family again in Durham, Ontario. They had many other children in their home who were all White.

They would sometimes refer to me as a “little chocolate drop” in the most insincere way. As if it was a prize or a cool challenge to be a White family taking care of a Black child.

I didn't feel like the rest of the kids in their home. I definitely didn't feel like family. The mother of that home often attempted to take care of my coily hair. At this time there wasn't much knowledge about taking care of Black hair especially not in the White community there weren't any YouTube videos to reference or Black Beauty Supply stores to go to definitely not in Durham.

She always ended up blow drying my hair out and putting enough grease in it to be able to brush it into a ponytail. After leaving it like that for the week she would take it out and do it all over again with palpable frustration and impatience. One day she saw a bald Black model on Breakfast Television. She called me downstairs and told me “you would look so beautiful with your hair like that”. A few days later she got her husband to grab his clippers and shaved all my hair off. I remember feeling very distraught and started to cry when I saw how I looked in the mirror. She then proceeded to call her son downstairs and convince me that I looked beautiful.

These are just a few of the things Black women have to experience in our childhood.

Throughout my teenage years it only got worse but this time it was from a different oppressor. I first realized it in Middle School. Boys would say things like, “oh she's too dark” and “I don't like dark skin girls.” I would shrug it off but it never really sat right with me. As if a skin tone was something you couldn't like in a girl. This was my first time really experiencing colorism. Now that I'm older I realized this is a story as old as time. It's what makes Black women strong but it shouldn't be the reason why we are.

This strength that we carry is a testament to our ancestors. It’s the same strength that Harriet Tubman used to bring 300 slaves to freedom. Though the world is in an uncertain place and things seem less than joyous, I can somehow see the silver lining. The conversations that needed to be had are finally being spoken. Finally people are willing to listen and Black women like me are finally being heard.

I hope that one day little Black girls who grow up to be strong Black women will not have to go through the same struggles and pain that I've experienced. They will be free from the standards the world sets in place for them. I pray that the world will appreciate them for who they truly are.

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