I can’t accept that. I can’t accept that there was only one black woman in the entire film, who delivered one line and who we never saw again. I can’t accept that the bad guys were Asian and that although in China, Lucy’s roommate says, “I mean, who speaks Chinese? I don’t speak Chinese!” I can’t accept that in Hercules, which I also saw this weekend, there were no people of color except for Dwayne Johnson himself and his mixed-race wife, whose skin was almost alabaster. I can’t accept that she got maybe two lines and was then murdered. I can’t accept that the “primitive tribe” in Hercules consisted of dark-haired men painted heavily, blackish green, to give their skin (head-to-toe) a darker appearance, so the audience could easily differentiate between good and bad guys by the white vs. dark skin. I can’t accept that during the previews, Exodus: Gods and Kings, a story about Moses leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt, where not a single person of color is represented, casts Sigourney Weaver and Joel Edgerton to play Egyptians. I can’t accept that in the preview for Kingsman: The Secret Service, which takes place in London, features a cast of white boys and not a single person of Indian descent, which make up the largest non-white ethnic group in London. I can’t accept that in stories about the end of the world and the apocalypse, that somehow only white people survive. I can’t accept that while my daily life is filled with black and brown women, they are completely absent, erased, when I look at a TV or movie screen.
— Olivia Cole - Lucy: Why I’m Tired of Seeing White People on the Big Screen (via noely-g)
Today I looked privilege in the face….
I get it. I get that at 23, I look more like I’m 18, so I look sweet and innocent. I get that I’m in an environment that has very few Black professors and even fewer Black graduate students. ( Which means two things. 1. Most of these students probably have yet to have someone of color to be in any kind of authority position. 2. Your interactions with a member of the Negro race in an academic setting are probably not that often.) I also understand that a Teaching Assistant is to a real professor as a mall cop is to a real police officer. (Trust me, I don’t stress about my position.) And most importantly, I get that you don’t like History and feel like this class is a waste of your precious time. I understand all of that.
But even though I get all of that, it absolutely sucks to be looked at like you’re the baby lion at the zoo. The new attraction that a mom tells their baby to wave to but not touch. To walk into a room and feel all the eyes immediately come to you or to have a student look you in the face like you mean less than a three dollar bill is heart wrenching. To hear a student legitimately say and believe, “aren’t there non-white historians who can study this” even though you see your work just as valid as every and anyone else’s. To know that even though you dream everyday of graduation and the phd and a professorship and work consistently to be better and stronger and faster means nothing to your peers because you still seem “different” even though they aspire to not even half as much is a punch to the self esteem everyday.
I wrote this not as a pity party but more to get it off my chest and out of my head. These are probably the issues most students of color face everyday… the constant battle between feeling something like that lion at the zoo. You roar and roar by pointing these things out in discussions and conversations. You continue to work hard and fast with the hope that one day you’ll be in a place that will allow you to make this better for other little black boys and girls who want to academics. You carry your blackness like the badge of honor it is and know that your lack of privilege sometimes gives you an upper hand in understanding things or brining in other perspectives which ultimately helps make you a better scholar. You ( or maybe just me) ask God for patience and discernment about your battles…or if punching someone in the face will be worth it…
But either way this long ramble has cooled my spirit enough to get back to my work and therefore its purpose has been fulfilled.
(excuse the typos… cause I know they are in here)
“Look up and not down little girl and never say die”
-Archibald Grimke in a letter to his daughter Angelina (November 3, 1905)