In the last blog post, you read a little about my internal battles in dealing with how to exist in worlds that were different from mine. The inspiration to share this part of myself with you came from a book I read by Angie Thomas called, The Hate U Give.
See, much like the main character and narrator of this book, I too had to find a balance of how to be me in any and every setting I found myself. I struggled at a young age with trying to “belong” in all my worlds, but I’m so glad that I have embraced me and learned to just be me.
Though all three of my ‘worlds’ were very different, they were equally as important in defining who I am. I will not give you a detailed synopsis about this book, because I want everyone to read the book as it brings us into a state of consciousness about things that we don’t know or understand. One thing that my parents taught us growing up was, “if you want to know, you ask”. Truth be told, questions are conversation starters. “Hi, how are you?”, “Did you see the game last night?”, “the weather sure is crazy out there today, huh?” just to name a few.
I used to get upset when people would ask me questions about Nigeria or ‘Africa’ as they referred to it, which I felt were ridiculous. But, I realized in my early teenage years that people asked questions based on their level of knowledge. And since our surroundings (mostly TV) mold our decisions, these questions may sometimes be outlandish to me. My job is to educate the person by answering the question.
I have a friend who loves when I share my Nigerian culture with her, because she’s able to share it with her family as well. The interest in my culture makes me excited to share this part of my world. One of the things that I shared with her was that when I’m handing something to a person who would be considered my ‘elder’ out of respect, I use both my hands and not just one. This gesture shows that you’re focused and not just blowing the person away. With both hands you have to focus on what you’re doing and the person is rewarded with your undivided attention.
As was the case in the book, I had to learn to embrace every part of who I am but also accept the cultural differences amongst my peers. I love that I can be with a group of friends and they understand that I didn’t grow up listening to a certain type of music or watch certain movies and I can be educated on what things mean and not judged. Or to have them explain to me some of the old school remedies that their grandparents had.
You see, the main thing I want for us to grasp from this blog is that we are all different culturally however, we are people. We all desire and long for the same thing, happiness.
I want to walk into a store and be treated with professional respect and not conspicuously followed around the store because of the color of my skin. I want to go to sleep at night and not have to say an extra-long prayer of protection over my family, especially my brothers and friends because of the color of our skin.
I want to know that when I call the police in a certain neighborhood, they will come running like they do to the “white” neighborhoods. I do not want to feel like I have to narrate my every move to the police officer that pulled me over for an expired tag. I want to watch the news and know that when a person has been wrongfully gunned down that justice will prevail. I want to stop seeing hashtags with names of persons who I will never get to meet (because they have been wrongfully gunned down).
I want police officers not to feel so afraid for their lives and the lives of their partners that they have to shoot to kill. I want us to stop choosing hate over love. I want us to not see our differences as a division, but an opportunity to get to know someone that is not normally in ‘our world’ and use it as a way to bring us together. I want us to stop fearing the unknown. I want us to ask questions without fear of unnecessary consequences. I want us to know that this journey called life really can be done harmoniously. These wants all start with self-love!!!
When you love yourself and value your life, taking your fellow human being’s life becomes a distant thought. It is then that you can pull someone over and not be so afraid for your life that fear pushes you to reach for your gun. It is then that you can look at your fellow human being and see a need that you can help meet even if he/she does not look like you. It is then that we can accept that a white person can listen to hip hop and not be labeled as a wanna be or that a black person can be a member of a country club and not be a sell-out. It is then that you accept how mac and cheese is a meal to you or that it’s a side dish to me because I feel my protein must come in form of meat (Wikipedia says it can be either a side or main dish… lol). Learning to love and accept each other like we love ourselves, flaws, differences and all makes us that much more powerful to save each other and make a brighter day.
I no longer say, “I don’t see color when I look at others”. Why? Because it is in embracing our different shades of black AND white that we start to accept each other for who we really are and realize that we are really ONE HUMAN RACE!
Please if you get a chance, read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and let me know how you enjoyed the book.
I’m Rose Kehinde, founder of Rose Colored Lenses. My mission and goal is to create a platform that allows us to help each other on this journey called life. As you read from me, you will see my heart and in turn I hope to see yours as well. This journey called life requires us all to work together.