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?
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.