Clothes do not matter when the mark of terror is visible on your skin.
Race relations has always been a hot topic in America, but in recent years tensions have skyrocketed. It has become common knowledge to avoid the comments section of all articles—unless you want to be pulled into a keyboard brawl. Racial discussions have become so commonplace that a new term has made a frequent appearance: race-baiting.
First used in the 1960s, race-baiting is defined as “the unfair use of statements about race to try to influence the actions or attitudes of a particular group of people.” As we know, neither culture nor language is static. Like many words of the past, its meaning has shifted contemporarily to describe establishing race as a factor in order to lure in a particular group of readers and evoke social media discord.
While many are embracing old ideas and comfortable with racial inequalities, Millennials seem to take a strong stance on the side of equality for all. Many are “allies” for causes that do not directly affect them. The term “ally” is used to describe a supporter of a marginalized population, more specifically to a community to which they do not belong. Despite the growing outward expression of “ally-ship,” many of us have the day-to-day actions that do not match up with our claims of equality. We tend to hold a different set of acceptable behaviors for white people than people of color; otherwise known as the reinforcement of white supremacy. Most people would be surprised to know a large percentage of white supremacist ideals are perpetuated by people of color. Here are the most common ways I as an individual was limiting my brother and unintentionally imposing white supremacist sentiment.
1. Constantly asking him to talk quieter and discouraging slang.
It is well known that there is varying terminology and tones of voice from person to person. While this variation is known, few people take the time to separate stereotype from occasional occurrence. Unlike our white counterpoints who are given an opportunity to be perceived as simply passionate, black people are often portrayed as loud and uncivilized when using AAVE (African American Vernacular English; “slang”) and speaking at a certain octave. I have frequently told my brother to “calm down” during conversations and asked him to lower his voice. By continually forcing my brother to lower his voice at the smallest expression of passion, I was stifling his voice and limiting his range of expression.
2. Discouraging fun and play
My brother is 17 years old, he is at an age full of silliness and pestering. I would often ask my brother to stop joking or playing around for fear that people would overhear a portion of what we were saying and take it the wrong way. Overly concerned with the perception of others, I had to be sure that my brother way not displaying himself like the class clown. Unlike many of the black males I went to school with, I did not want him to be taken as a joke to society—enjoyed for his sense of humor but ignored in terms of larger value. What I interpreted as being the court jester was simply my brother making sense of the world around him.
3. Encouraging homebody-ness
With so many recent headlines highlighting the over-representation of black males as victims of police brutality, I became terrified for my brother’s life. I can still vividly remember crying at my job in reference to the news not to indict the officer that killed Eric Gardner. I was well aware of the social position of the black American male—feared for the same aspect for which he is desired. I could not bear to receive that phone call. I began to beg my brother to leave the house as little as possible, I could not have him in the streets as a walking target. Little did I know, forcing my brother to stay home did little more than what those who hate him would have wanted. I did not understand that I can not protect my brother from being a target—as events have shown, the church itself is no longer a safe haven. Keeping him sheltered limits his exposure to hate and knowledge. I had to allow him to see the world and find his place in it, regardless of how much it hurt.
4. Policing his “urban” attire
I could not take the thought of my brother being the next Trayvon Martin. After the incident, I encouraged him to dress in a way that was more “preppy” or “suburban.” Surely if he wore plaid shorts and collared shirts he would be exempt from society’s impositions. Life passed, more incidents came to light, and it was clear that regardless of what was worn, at medium brown and 6’3 my brother would always be a threat in a racist society. Clothes do not matter when the mark of terror is visible on your skin.
Through all of this, I was not only promoting supremacist ideals but I was limiting his potential for individual growth. I cannot expect nor allow my fears to stop my brother from living life to the fullest, as I have allowed them to stop myself. He owes it to the world around us to be as authentic as possible and express his creativity in ways that are best for him. It is not fair to plague him with the curse of presenting himself to the world as “less black” in order to make the world comfortable with him. Out of love, I now watch admirably as my brother lives unapologetically black for the entire world to see—including his nephew, my son. I aspire to be like him one day. He is strong, he is graceful. He is a black man free of chains.
Impulsive yet shockingly well-prepared, Ambreia Meadows-Fernandez has a tendency to take leaps and land on her feet. She is passionate about breastfeeding, social justice, and her family. A military spouse to Rico and mom to Salem, Ambreia is waiting to see what is next in life. See more of Ambreia at her writer’s page and websi
This originally appeared on OneKoolKnitta. Republished here with permission.