At the close of Black History month, I have reflected on what Black history has meant to my life as a Black woman. Realizing that experiences and choices I’ve made, make Black history more than just about the chronicles of a people, but also about my life in the framework of color.
Growing up in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1970’s my life was sweeter than sweet. My parents raised our family in a racially balanced community. I grew up with many friends both Black and White. I never knew there were differences between Black and White people beyond the color of our skin. I soon found out that color lines did exist and the ugliness of racism became real.
In 1978 we relocated to Miami, Florida. It was here where I would first learn that above being different by being from the North, that perhaps more inconceivable I learned that I was different because I was Black.
At a bus stop one day coming from school, a car stopped in front of me, three white girls called me “nigger”, spat at me and zoomed away. I was mortified, angry and mostly hurt. What was so bad about me that I deserved this?
This was the first of many incidents of my blackness I would experience. Oddly enough, I also discovered something even more surprising: that racism existed even among my own people.
In high school, I was constantly tormented by other Black girls who would say things like: you act white, you talk white, you aren’t like “us”. Just who are you? This was a question I even began to ask myself.
Some 30 years later I have found that much has changed concerning race relations and some things remain the same. However, my views have not changed. In the years that have followed, I have found out who I am: a proud Black woman proud of her heritage; who tries to learn about the differences of others and respect those differences. I choose to live in a multi-ethnic community. I try to make a difference in the lives of others through community service and activism. I am not ashamed to speak using correct grammar. I choose to incorporate people from different ethnic backgrounds into my life in my day to day activities.
These things and more make me a proud Black woman born of a people with an amazing history. My experiences have helped me to appreciate both the proud and not so proud moments that I have experienced as a Black person.
So when people say things like “Harney isn’t a ‘black’ name”, or “why do you live way out there with all those ‘white’ people” or “how did you get your hair so straight”, I can raise my head with dignity realizing that my choices to live life beyond the camera lens has provided me with opportunities I may have never known. This I believe.
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