Write your list and then later compare it to mine to see if we think alike.
Photo taken by A. M., Feb. 2020.
Growing up in Hawai'i, some people tried to make my skin color (race, hair) an issue. Children did not understand why people called me black, notably when some were darker than me. While at Waimanalo Elementary and Junior High School, some students (Hawaiians and others) called me a "Black Nigger and Nigger" several times. I did not defend myself, just went on with my day. Some asked whether to call me black, Negro, but got called Popolo, olopop, paele bean, and Jello butt in high school.
As a freshman at Lahainaluna High School and Boarding Department, Miss Domingo, my Hawaiian dormitory counselor, asked me to sit at the front table with her in the cafeteria during dinner. She asked me if I had noticed anything about myself and the other students living on campus. I turned around and looked as they ate and chatted with each other. I said, "No." She stated that I was the only black person, and once again, I turned around and looked at the many races of students and adults. As I shrugged my shoulders, I said, "So." After our conversation, I picked up my food tray and sat among the blended races.
Thinking back, I believe that she and the other adults wondered if I had noticed, and at first, I did not and maybe thought if I felt that I fit in, which I did at first, but left during junior year. There were no other blacks in the boarding department (except when my sister, Lora Ann, attended the following year), but black day students attended school. It became apparent of my race when some boarders said, "Hey Fern, you are the first black person to..., or the first girl to..., which at first was exciting, but later annoyed me since doing so brought too much attention.
After a long day of work, I asked my first husband to change the channel because it was an awful black and white movie. He said that it was not a movie, it happened, and then I sat down and watched Eyes on the Prize (1987). During community college in Texas, one of my white male instructors wanted me to read books on African and Black History due to what I said. When he talked about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, I thought the railroad had a real choo choo train and was surprised that back then, they had a railroad underground. Immediately he raised a fist and pointed his thumb behind him for me to go to the library and check out some books. Once there, I was amazed at the many selections, and later, a black male friend loaned me a book that Frederick Douglass wrote. I admit that I still lack the knowledge of African and Black History, but enough to know who I believe I AM. Who I AM would be exceptionally fulfilling for others to see me as their equal without reference 'of color' because I AM a person, not a person of color.
I AM a woman, not a woman of color. I AM a caregiver, not a caregiver of color. I AM a writer, not a writer of color. I AM a journalist, not a journalist of color. I AM a US citizen, not a citizen of color. I AM a voter, not a voter of color. If I lived in a majority non-white neighborhood, it is a community, not a community of color. If I were an employee at a majority non-white corporation, it is a company, not a business of color. When people (journalists, politicians) refer to non-whites as people (character) of color, I believe it is the same as saying, colored folks.
It does not matter that activists of the past did not or present does not mind 'of color'; I find it offensive and demeaning, and yet, many who look like me accepted this label as who they are, not me. When people state (write) 'of color,' I want them to know: Do not separate me from others due to my skin color and race. I AM equal to everybody despite the box they tried to place me in. I AM Fern, separate from 'of color.'
Posted September 16, 2020, 12:58 AM
Updated September 16, 2020, 1:42 AM
Eyes on the Prize. (1987).