“I’m a realist, I’m a romantic, I’m an indecisive piece of….” – I’m a Realist (The Cribs)
“She looked out into the quiet, sunny streets, and for the first time in her life, she hated it all – the white city, the white world. She could not, that day, think of one decent white person in the whole world” (p.201)
Go Tell It On The Mountain – James Baldwin
When I was suspended, I began to hate all white people.
My partner is white, I have white friends, so I’m not a racist.
That’s what all racist people say, right? We all know one person of the opposite colour to us, so that makes us safe. Not racist, right?
But see, I’d grown up around white folk, and ingratiated myself into white society, to the point where I actually identified myself more as a white person, than a person of colour. Every school we’d attended as kids, my sister and I had been the only kids of colour.
We didn’t know how to be black.
When we moved to London when I was ten years old, and again when I was in my late twenties, black people could see how much I stood out, like a cut open coconut in a crowd of a closed bunch.
I don’t even talk like a black person; so many people have told me that I sound “white” on the phone. I remember the first time I heard myself actually: when I returned home from my travels in South East Asia and Australia; my mum had kept all of my insanely long diary-entry style answer phone messages, which I listened to. Listening to those messages, it didn’t sound like I was listening to Posh Spice.
Most of the people I idolised growing up were white: Ian Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Harry, Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood, Phil Collins, Kurt Cobain…
I was only attracted to white boys as an adolescent, even when I was faced with rejection. I’d just move onto the next one. It never dawned on me that their rejection could be because of the colour of my skin, or that a boy welcoming me into his bed was down to racial fetish only, and not because he actually fancied me.
At the school, during my teacher training, I think I was so shocked at the racism, because I really thought that I was one of them, regardless of the microaggressions. At every microaggression, I was in denial; I was so desperate to become a teacher I chose to ignore every single one anyway, until it was too late. And then in the dark haze of my depression, it became so arduous to separate the good from the evil – so I made it simple: black became good and white evil.
Black was good, because of my friends, my extended family and “Black Twitter”, which became my safe haven, as well as my source of black education as I became woke.
White was bad, because of the school, and the university. And the world.
What did this mean for my relationship?
… Confusion… Heartache.
… I also have white people in my extended family – I’ve known them for my entire life….
… I have white friends who have stood by me, stuck out their necks for me…
… Come on ,Cece…
…They’re not all evil…
… You know this…
… Not all whites are white supremacists Cece….
See, this may all sound crazy to you. But ALL OF THIS WAS GOING ON IN MY HEAD.
Why shouldn’t this be easy for me? You might be thinking?
But not only was I heartbroken, my soul was destroyed, my dreams were crushed; my mental state was obliterated.
I’ve recently finished reading James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain, and he describes poignantly, how in heartbreak, even after the heart has healed a soul can be left behind:
“Men spoke of how the heart broke up, but none spoke of how the soul hung speechless in the pause, the void, the terror between the living and the dead;… the soul remembered, the heart sometimes forgot… Only the soul, obsessed with the journey it had made, and had still to make, pursued it’s mysterious and dreadful end; and carried, heavy with weeping and bitterness, the heart along. (p.203)”
This book was published in 1953, and I’d never had anybody describe my current condition so perfectly.
I was confused about my sudden aversion to white people, yet simultaneously it felt like I was thinking clearly for the first time in my life, because for years I’d been on the wrong side. I started listening exclusively to everything I could get my hands on, by Kendrick Lamar and channeling my anger through HIM, because that was the only way I could understand it. I was cry and shout in the shower to his lyrics.
I started exclusively reading black literature, not only to understand my culture, but to also attempt to understand why white people hated me so much. Maya Angelou and James Baldwin became my surrogate grandparents.
I argue with white people on social media (I jest to my partner that it’s now my new full-time job), it seems now on a daily basis, who lack simple empathy, sympathy. I went to the same schools as these people, therefore I’m now beginning to deduce that racism is an upbringing issue. I would be friends with kids who were “safe” in school, but at home around their families or “other” friends, it was a completely different story. Anything goes. And now that we have social media, it’s a million times worse.
I’m now in a healthier state of mind, where I love and trust everybody in my life, regardless of the colour of their skin, because this learning process has truly has been a screening process of sorts.
After what I’ve been through, I’m now always going to be suspicious of every new white person I meet, and that makes me racist to you.
I don’t apologise for that.
There is no human race; we are not one human race. People who say that they do no see colour are liars/ in denial and need to wake up. We are divided and were born that way, I’ve seen that now. Up until these past few months, I really believed that my affluent upbringing and accent, my education, my British passport and my love of indie music bought my a ticket into “white culture”. I was wrong. It means nothing to you.
And that’s okay, because I’ve found a new dream so my heart will mend, but my soul will forever be bruised and battered by the whips and lashes and beatings it has taken – and will continue to take in this country because of the colour of my skin.
But I’m not going anywhere.
And again I won’t apologise.
I’m proud of my past, my present and now my future.
If being proud of me makes me racist, then hear me again: I won’t apologise.