The Coveted Collection part 1: Whiteness
If you’re in your forties, you may recall Whoopi Goldberg’s 1985 comedy special on Broadway. In it, she portrayed a number of characters including a drug addict, a woman with a disability, an older lady, and even a little black girl that wanted to have “long, luxurious blonde hair”. I distinctly remember being mesmerized by that little black girl’s desire to be white, because it resonated so deeply within me. In 1985, I wasn’t quite 12 years old, in the 6th grade, and one of maybe four blacks in a classroom full of white kids. It had been that way for most of my educational career and it was something I was used to, or at least in my pre-adolescent wisdom, thought I was. But as I watched Whoopi, I realized I wanted to be a white girl. I wanted the white skin, the blond hair, the blue eyes, the white name, and all the perceived perks that went along with whiteness. In my youth, and beyond, I thought being white would be the answer to all of my problems. Listening to her pretend to be a white girl evoked such emotion within me. Feelings that had probably been there for years that I hadn’t quite put words to, couldn’t articulate, maybe didn’t even acknowledge actually existed yet were very real emotions, began to arise in me. Feelings like self-hatred because why was I a “black b!t&h” when other black students got mad at me and what was so wrong with being “black” anyway; confusion as to why I wasn’t typically invited to my white classmates’ birthday parties but heard about them after the fact; fear because I was considered an "oreo" that didn’t fit in with either the white students in my class or the black kids in school and I never quite knew where I belonged. Wouldn’t all those feelings, challenges, and struggles subside if I was white? If my skin was lighter, hair straight and longer, lips thinner, name different. By the way, with a name like Sha-Lai, I literally wanted to be a “Becky” before it became a slur lol. I even talked to my mom about changing it legally. In a few minutes, six to be exact, Whoopi’s comediac act embodied all of those emotions for me and showed me, me. That I didn’t want to be black, ugly, with “soup cooler” big lips, nappy hair (when I didn’t have a jheri curl), me. That I really did want to be white, attractive, popular, beautiful, the European version of beauty that is. It wasn’t until years later, college in fact, that I began to appreciate my blackness, all of it. I would literally stand in front of the mirror and stare at myself, and affirm myself, my being, my brown skin, my full lips, my brown eyes, me. It was reading Psalm 139:14 and finding out that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, just the way God intended me to be, that gave me true peace in my soul. If the King of kings and Lord of lords, who spoke the world into existence, created me, I must be pretty dang awesome!
Be blessed, Dr. S #BeYourBestYou