History of Blackness

I was  talking to my daughter about history. My 16 year old started with Federalism and it merged into a discussion about race; more specifically slavery. There is a family legend that we are descended from five sisters who were stolen from Louisiana. I said to my daughter that they were probably Creole, and since her mother is white, and I am fairly light skinned that they probably looked a lot like she and I. She mused that it really wasn’t that long ago. I said “I know,” and that there are people alive today who witnessed a lynching, or protested integration. That got me thinking about how a history of violence  is embedded in our cultural memory. It is as much a part of the U.S as the Liberty Bell, and amber waves of grain.  Black people in America bare that violence on our skin. Are there are any carmel colored indigenous tribes in West Africa? Probably not. There are, however, countless accounts of the wholesale rape and torture of black women. That means for black people the very violence that is embedded in American history is also embedded in our blackness; our light skin, and soft features are from years of rape. It is rather depressing, but also empowering, because it means that in the history of my skin tone there was a woman who survived, and thrived in the place where unspeakable things happened to her. There are those who will say that will say I shouldn’t think like that, or that I should not be so focused on race. The problem is that if I never look in a mirror, or at a photo of myself, or I become truly blind to the color of my skin it will not matter to the world; because America will remind me. But, that reminder will also cause me to be aware of the fact that I am the product of perseverance in the face of tragedy.

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One comment on “History of Blackness
  1. studiomiguel says:

    This post reminds me of a trip we took to Ghana, West Africa a few years ago. Specifically the slave castles in Elmina & Cape Coast. There was a British governor in Cape Coast Castle named George Maclean. He was famous for upholding abolitionist thinking and was responsible for ultimately clearing hundreds of miles of the Ghanian coast of the slave trade. But, our guide told us, he still used the secret ladder passages that allowed him to bring the women up from the dungeons with surprising frequency. Even the best of intentions, I seems, can manage to justify rape when given the opportunity.

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