Written by: Jaize Francis
Graphic by: Jaize Francis
It comes as a great shock to discover that the country, which is your birthplace, and to which you owe your life and your identity, has not, in its whole system of reality evolved any place for youJames Baldwin, 1965
My skin is a terrorist threat and my words as well because skin color is seen as a weapon in itself in this country. The deep tone of my skin is more threatening than all the skittles, hairbrushes, wallets, Wii remotes, cellphones, pill bottles, and iPods that those meant to serve and protect “mistook” for guns. My weapon is one that does not require reloading, for it constantly produces terror, and invariably leads to mass destruction. The unreasonable fear it generates in those with fairer skin will never falter. For I produce terror even in my sleep. Fear of a Black planet fuels my oppression and oils its gears, because if the Negro is free who will we subjugate? My liberation would be the causation of social mayhem in our society. If the Negro is not the nethermost on the totem pole, whose body will be exploited?
This is why the American Negro must always be subjected to the emotional poverty of the white man. For if he sympathizes with our struggle, he destroys the falsehood instilled in him by his country. If the veil is stolen from his eyes, he will be able to see we are one and the same. That is why the hue of my skin will always represent something nefarious and damnable in mainstream society. It justifies why I am continually exiled to the shadows. My physical appearance classifies me as the undeserving twin of my lighter-skinned counterpart, condoning the murder of my kin. This is why Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin never made it to see 40. Their preachings threatened the security of white America’s ignorance.
This is why white America assures I am not given representation. They rely on my messages falling on deaf ears to nourish and develop their Negro problem. For if I speak my truth, people may begin to question whether or not I am expendable. The evils of white monsters must be diminished in order to maintain their unconditional innocence, that is why my shortcomings will never be representative of what they are not- human.
Even as a child I was taught to be overly critical of my place in society.
“I will never be a princess” were the words that constantly escaped my lips. My skin is simply too dark. It is not white, not by a longshot, and no amount of skin bleach will turn me into one. The man from the Disney song even warned me that I am perpetually bound to this condition. Regardless of how long you wish upon a star, it will “make no difference who you are”. I will never be like Cinderella or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty or Belle or even Ariel because I do not look like them, and no matter how long I hope and pray I never will. That is my reality.
That was when I realized this world was not meant for me.
By age seven I was well aware that I was simply an intruder. A dark-skinned stranger adrift in a sea of pale-faced adversaries. No princess would dare bear the shame of possessing dark skin. No. What a horrible unladylike blemish. However, the narrative changed when Tiana came along. Finally! After years, I had found one singular princess that looked like me. The boundaries had been pushed! Hollywood finally acquiesced and created one black character and I was expected to lick their boots in excitement. But this was in 2009, long after the effects of white supremacy had seeped into my being. I wish I could tell you the plot of the movie, but I didn’t even bother to watch it. I still haven’t. It was too late and the damage had been done. Why would I watch a movie about a black girl when she was transformed into a frog for the majority of the movie? Why are BIPOC people always reduced to stereotypes or animals for entertainment? However, it was not just the Princess and the Frog that had done this no, Brother Bear, The Emperor’s New Groove, and American Dragon: Jake Long all continued this legacy. I was taught that non-white people are only deserving of attention if they are used to serve the white agenda and minimize their humanistic qualities.
This is no mistake. To white people, my body solely exists for profit. I am just an animal. BIPOC people are brown-skinned devils that do not deserve to exist as multifaceted people because our race is our defining characteristic. We are not palatable as princesses nor people. That is reserved for those with white skin.
But hey progress is being made right? I should be grateful for the scraps thrown down to me, shouldn’t I? No. I am not, because I deserve to be a princess too, not just an animal. I should not shed tears because I know I will never be valued or treated as a human. I should not tear my soul apart searching for answers to give white people for why I am entitled to feel this way. I should not feel the pain of my ancestors during “historic” moments of minimal “progress”.
As a brown-skinned person, I am forced to fight for my spot. I must change my name and hair for a seat at the table because if I do not adapt to the white standard I will be scorned and replaced. Then once I finally do settle into my seat, I am questioned on why my entrance was so violent. In order to enter the white world, I was obligated to jam myself through the door, yet when I turn my head I see it being held open for those that look like perfect princesses.
Their fair skin and light eyes fit the mold perfectly. They are equipped to play any role without hesitation. Without preparation. However the same does not apply to me and it never will. I am too dark. Too loud. Too masculine. My seat is seized from me, and in the blink of an eye, my place in their world is gone. I’ve sunk to the bottom of the pyramid, however this time there is no prince to emancipate me. Rather than sending a stunning gentleman to my aid, I am met with a man in uniform that aims his weapon at mine. The only difference between the brother in blue and I is that he is able to disarm himself and I am not, something he uses to vindicate his brutality against me.
While I do not hate the white man, I despise what he has done to me. The condition he has reduced me to is despicable, and I would much rather live a life independent of him, but I was not given a choice. My ancestors were stolen from the familiarity of their soil and taken as hostages to the unknown. While their relocation was not consensual, even in 2021 their family members are continuously persecuted and threatened to leave under the guise of making America great again. After all, the security of whiteness must feel great, it’s just a shame I will never be given the luxury of experiencing it. The beneficiaries of American exceptionalism will never inconvenience themselves by learning the depth of my suffering. This is why they constantly mock the way I am revolting. I am well aware that if I have nothing to offer the white man then I am not great either. That is when I become a burden that must be exterminated. I know my happiness means nothing to him, for my suffering is what is most profitable.
I am not your negro, nor your slave, nor your Aunt Jemima, nor your mammy, nor your jezebel or teacher. I firmly believe I am an individual whose life experience cannot be reduced to a singular stereotype, yet sometimes I find it hard to see the beauty in myself because “you can love what you see in the mirror, but you can’t self-esteem your way out of the way the world treats you” (Gabrielle Union).