I’ve always hated my skin. At first it was the color. I wanted to be more of my mother’s complexion (not because she was lighter-skinned, but because I wanted to look like her).

mom

Then it was how delicate it seemed. I was a rough and tumble kid. I was a tomboy. I wanted to be a stunt double or a dancer. I was going to win the Olympic gold in the floor exercises. Bruises, scratches, and scrapes were all part of the territory. Everyone I knew said I should take better care of my skin. “Men don’t like bruises and scrapes.” Didn’t I want to be married one day? Didn’t I want to be beautiful?

Then it was my acne that came in high school and never completely left. I tried every scrub and cream I could afford (which usually made matters worse). I read books on skin care and nutrition. Nothing helped. I hated when people touched my skin. I hated when people got too close to my face; I hated taking pictures and being in the spotlight. I hated dating. My skin has always made me feel ugly.

America is much like this.
First, we have a superficial but deeply rooted bias towards our mother. There is no escaping our European influence. Education, architecture, government, television— remnants exist everywhere. We are an unapologetically Eurocentric nation (at times to the exclusion of everyone else).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to look like your mother, but in a nation of immigrants this means that the rest of us (and those whose ancestors were forced here against their own volition) are excluded. Worst still, perhaps there are things we shouldn’t embody. Perhaps we would be better off having an identity that is distinctly and completely our own.

Second, we misunderstand America’s purpose and function. We set goals that we don’t act upon. We’re thin-skinned and overly concerned with others’ perceptions of us. We consider ourselves unique and we aspire for notoriety, but when faced with criticism (or confronted with evidence of past failures), we pass blame.

Today, November 20, 2016, our foundation seems fragile. I hesitate to see a return to Jim Crow.

  • Steven Bannon was selected as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor. He has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • Reince Priebus was appointed Chief of Staff.
  • Michael Flynn was appointed National Security Adviser.
  • Mike Pompeo is slated to be the new Director of the CIA.
  • Jeff Sessions was picked for Attorney General.

Third, somewhere right below the surface, we hate a part of ourselves. We do what we can to make peace with it. We try to get rid of it (i.e. police violence against communities of color), and we try to downplay our feelings towards it (i.e. “it’s a post-racial society after all, right?”). It isn’t sexy to be insecure. We aren’t supposed to say aloud that people of color have no place in our society. We know that it’s taboo to say we hate a part of ourselves— a part of our heritage. It’s easier to just wear make-up. Just hide what’s ugly.

It brings me no joy to say these things. I’m not vindicated or validated in my belief that America isn’t kind to people who look like me. I’ve had enough racialized experiences to know where I stand in the social hierarchy. I’ve read enough books, talked to enough strangers, consoled enough friends, and traveled to enough places. In the aftermath of Trump’s victory:
  1. Hijab-wearing Muslims have been assaulted.
  2. The North Carolina chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is planning a victory parade to celebrate his election. Former KKK leader David Duke claimed election night was one of the most exciting nights of his life.
  3. A swastika was painted on a light pole in Capitol Hill and at Adam Yauch Park in New York City.
  4. Nazi-related graffiti was found in South Philly.
  5. During a high school volleyball game, teenagers at Fort Hancock Independent School District in Texas chanted “build that wall” at Hispanic and Latino/a attendees.
  6. At Stone High School in Wiggins, Mississippi, a group of white high schoolers put a noose around a black student’s neck and yanked backwards. The NAACP is working to have this incident investigated as a hate crime.
  7. Trump’s “leadership team” is discussing plans for a Muslim registration system.
  8. A teacher was caught on tape telling her students that Trump should deport their parents.
  9. Over 700 incidents of harassment and intimidation have been reported since Election Day, and about 300 white nationalists gathered in D.C. this weekend.
  10. Shares in arms companies reportedly surged to a record high, while shares in renewable energy companies have plummeted.

…And Sarah Palin is rumored to be up for a position in the Cabinet.

I don’t know where we go from here. I don’t know what we do now.

Perhaps there’s only up.

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3 thoughts on “What So Proudly We Hailed: Deeply Rooted

  1. Pingback: What is Enough?
  2. Pingback: Forget Paris

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