All Articles Tagged "Teasing"
Why The Discussion About Colorism Won’t Change Or End Unless We’re Honest With Ourselves And Deal With Our Own Pain
Aside from being a big topic of discussion after A$AP Rocky’s words about women of a darker complexion needing to pass on bright red lipstick, colorism was also the topic of discussion on Twitter a few weeks ago. And the question posed that intrigued me to the point of response was simply:
“Will colorism end without discussing it? Have things improved due to the relative silence over the subject?
I didn’t have to think very hard about that. Every discussion I had been a part of up to a few months ago and every discussion I silently watched unfold ended in hurt feelings and intense anger on one or both sides. For a long time I just chalked it up to years of, “Well that’s just the way it is.” But seeing the discussion get started on Twitter once again, I really got to the root of why I believed simply DISCUSSING colorism will not improve anything.
I grew up being called “high yella” and enduring jabs from classmates telling me that I was trying to be a white girl. When I wasn’t being dissed I was being asked, “Are you mixed? What are you?” People were genuinely interested when they thought I was some exotic mixture of ethnic blood. When I convinced them I was simply and awesomely black, interest was lost. I don’t have time to get into how that tug-of-war effed up my sense of self royally. Nor do I want to go into it. Why? Because there will always be a few who are darker than me who will be outraged by the fact that I even allude to struggling with color issues. And that’s fine, but the discussion about colorism will NOT improve or erase colorism because a great many people just DO NOT respect the other side’s struggle. And if there is no respect between dark and light, there can never be a discussion that will make things better. If there is no foundation of empathy and compassion, what good will a discussion do?
My sister is a few shades darker than me and for years we fought like cats and dogs. I had no real understanding of why. I thought she just hated me and I left it at that. Fine. I hated her too.
It wasn’t until last summer, both of us in our late twenties, that we sat and had a real conversation about it. She revealed to me that her whole life she felt people cared about me more because I was lighter and deemed prettier than her. It blew my mind because I never considered colorism in my own household with my own family. It was “out there,” but not “in here” in my mind. I just thought she had the devil in her when we fought. I had no idea how deep a hurt she was dealing with. But once I shut up and invited her to speak freely, I got it. I understood her and she understood me. But it wasn’t until we decided to drop our defenses and hear each other out objectively that a conversation about colorism would help us to progress. We had to grow up first. And that is something most folks can’t/won’t do. They want to stay stuck in their own little worlds of hurt ON BOTH SIDES of the debate and not acknowledge the pain and frustration on the other side of the line. That is and will always be counterproductive.
The other reason that a discussion about colorism won’t improve the situation is because no one wants to take self-inventory. It’s easy to say “I’m dark-skinned and I’ve been discriminated against” or “I’m light-skinned and been unfairly judged” and never look to see what part you might have played in the discrimination/unfair judgment by someone who isn’t on your side of it all. Were you a light-skinned child who teased and berated darker-skinned girls? Did you stand by and ALLOW it to happen even if you never partook in such behavior? Were you an insecure child of a darker complexion who bullied the child lighter than you because you felt inferior? Let’s get real. We all have hurt and pain, but how often do we dig deeper to see what hurt we’ve inflicted on others?
If we can be honest with ourselves first, and deal with our pain/pre-judgments, then a progressive discussion can happen. But not before. Take it from a sister who is still digging deep daily, learning about herself and others and striving to become better.
La Truly’s writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Check her out on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly and AboutMe www.about.me/latruly.
She maybe a now legendary supermodel but that has never, EVER stopped anyone from talking about Trya’s huge forehead.
Well, ABC is now ready to give Tyra and her forehead some shine. They’ve accepted a scripted comedy co-created by Tyra and Kenya Barris called Fivehead (the “street” name for an unusually big forehead). The show will be based on all the jokes and her life growing up as a teenager with a…fivehead. She said, “In high school, if you have glasses, you’re a ‘four eyes’, if you have braces, you’re a ‘metal mouth’ but if you had my forehead? You’re a FIVEHEAD.” Well, I can’t say that she’s wrong in that assessment. From the description, it seems as though it will sort of follow the direction of Everybody Hates Chris.
Barris and Banks will create the characters together and then Barris will write the script. Barris has worked with Tyra on many projects, including America’s Next Top Model. They’ve also been friends since since they were kids and went to school together so its only right he play a huge part in the creation of the show.
I’m so not mad at Tyra for this! When you see an opening or a lane, you have to go for what you know. But ABC is notorious for canceling shows if they don’t do big numbers the first week so I hope it’ll be good.
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I never thought I’d see the day when bullying was used more than the word b****. I’m not complaining, okay I am just a little, but not because I want to hear more of the latter. I’m just a little concerned about the overuse of the former b-word and the genuineness of the recent slew of bullying claims and whether the b-word crisis we all believe we’re enduring has been blown completely out of proportion.
Now it might be a little counterintuitive to ask such questions when the majority of people are arguing that schools don’t take bullying complaints seriously enough. But I wonder has bullying gone the way of the r-word because we all know what happens when we cry racism too much, the complaints start to get ignored and written off as just that, empty complaining. Perhaps I’m too desensitized, but I barely shutter at someone’s tale of bullying these days because I hear the term so much that it makes me question are kids too sensitive or has our entire generation of kids just gone to hell. I imagine it’s a combination of both.
I’m sure if we all think back to those trying periods in our lives known as grade school, middle school, and high school, we could all think of an instance when we were “bullied.” Or what we used to call being teased or made fun of. No one is immune to it, even the so-called cool kids who just don’t realize plenty of folks are picking on them behind their backs. At some point in everyone’s lives, someone has had something to not so nice to say about their hair, their name, their weight, their glasses, being smart, being tall, being short, being them. It’s an unfortunate part of life that only becomes less obvious, and possibly infrequent, when you get older, but is nevertheless the nature of the human beast — yet not always bullying.
Everywhere you turn these days, someone is rehashing their childhood with a splash of bullying. It’s almost become the replacement for the “homeless to Harvard/I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” scenario successful individuals always end up telling at one point or another. Now, instead of, “I was sleeping in my car, now I’m making millions of dollars annually,” it’s “I was bullied as a child and I overcame.” This isn’t to take away from the real victims of constant taunting and verbal abuse and violence, but this seems to be a narrative that suddenly everyone who has made it shares and it’s become sympathetic overkill. Kids who are repeatedly harassed and taunted and attacked absolutely are being bullied and need to be protected by their parents and the school system. But children who happen to find themselves on the receiving end of a snarky remark, disrespectful comment, or discriminatory action randomly have to be taught the power that they have to fight against that type of behavior, and I don’t mean physically. We talk all the time about how we teach people how to treat us and what better time to start imparting that wisdom then when adolescents are developing their personalities as individuals? As I alluded to earlier, bullying, if you want to call it that, never stops, and though there are some laws in the form of sexual harassment and discrimination policies to protect you as an adult, most defense comes down to the good old tried and true method of standing up for yourself. In no way am I victim-blaming, but children aren’t always defenseless in their interactions with peers and they need to know labeling their treatment as bullying is certainly an option, but so is recognizing some of the behavior for what it is on the aggressor’s part: jealousy, insecurity, hate, if you will, judgement, and a plethora of other things.
Children have essentially been the same since the beginning of time. Their behavior hasn’t changed, the age at which some of the disturbing actions begins may have gotten younger, but I think the issue now is that there are so many different mediums through which a child can be reached that we’ve come to believe that any time anyone has anything negative to say about someone it’s bullying. The b-word is most certainly a reality for more people than it should be, but I wish the notion wouldn’t be thrown around as cavalierly as the other, and people would recognize some of the unfair behavior for what it really is. The power to overcome some of the taunting can be as simple as developing another b-word, a backbone.
Do you think bullying is an overused word these days?
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A few years ago, when I was in the basement of a barbershop waiting to get a chop, I waited with a young 20-something black woman who had a 3-year old running about the shop. My barber Janet asked her of her boy’s name, and this is what she had to say:
Another older sista waiting – doing what older sistas do – asked the mother: “Well, does he even know how to spell his own name???”
“He’s working on it,” she said sweetly. “He’s got about half of it down.”
As of late, it seems like I’ve been having many conversations related to the tendency of black parents – especially of humble background – to come up with grammatical manglings of names masquerading as creative expression. I’ve heard a small band of defenders explain that it’s a display of our cultural eccentricities and creativity that reveal names like the monstrosities above. Q’Kavarimantis. Really???
Being creative is cool, but I think we’ve come to a point–black folks and all folks really (yes, you too celebrities)–where the names we’re choosing for our children are going a bit too far. Here are why these damn names can be a big problem:
- Pointless creativity: Coming up with names that run in the family or stand for something deep is one thing; subverting them as a result of trying to be “unique” is dead wrong. Changing a perfectly classic name like “Alexander” to “Alezandear” and keeping the same pronunciation is not the righteous way to go. Making “Alexia” to “Alexuscia” will only make your child hate you for having to explain to people how that name came about countless times by the age of 35.
- They need to be employed someday: I’m a schoolteacher of young black boys and girls. So it should go without saying that I see and hear more over-the-top names than I care to share. Every now and again, I come across a doozy; what person in their free-thinking mind’s eye would come up with the name “Chandelier,” make it legal for the courts and send your child off with the expectation that it wont be an obstacle in the future? While we would love to assume that individuals aren’t shallow enough to judge a person by their name off the top, I’m sure no one reading this was born last night. It obviously happens.
- Phonetic mess: As an English teacher, I cant deal with the silent “j” and “s” that populate these names. I can’t deal with “L-ia” being pronounced “Ladashia” or the -leigh taking place of the -ley and having your child get mad at me for saying it wrong. Can’t do it. And you shouldn’t do it either.
- You don’t want your kids angry with you: You don’t want them to feel the need to run and get their name changed the minute they turn 18 do you? I have a unique-yet-common-enough first name, and I’ve been dealing with the blow back from it since I was in short pants. But the random jokes that come from my real name are nothing compared to the ridicule names that no other human on earth have outside of your child get. What’s wrong with “Andrew”? Is there a problem with “Tracy”? Hell, if you wanna go cultural, run with Malik! But there’s no accounting for “Dejalatasia” or some such name that will take your kids through hell on the playground. Some kids can be truly harsh (damn near evil) by nature, and those names are like giving them a handful of rocks aimed directly at your child.
- Don’t put absurd expectations on your child through their name: “Diamond.” “Essence.” “Precious.” “Heaven.” “Princess.” Not made-up names, but your daughter could be the second coming of Halle Berry in her prime and this would still make her look like a narcissist. And if she doesn’t end up looking like a “Diamond,” then you have got a lot of explaining to do. Plus, it’s hard to have a name like “Joy” if this young lady has an attitude more suited for a name like “Vicious.” Just keep these things in mind…
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Last year, Russell Dickerson, III, 20, filed a lawsuit against the Aberdeen School District, charging they did little to stop the racial and anti-gay bullying he endured from 2003-2009, and now the Seattle man has been awarded $100,000 in a settlement with school officials.
Russell said throughout junior high and high school he was taunted with racial epithets, spit on, and mocked. His peers would leave racist notes in his backpack and they even created a website to tease him about being black and suggest he was gay. When three students pushed him to the floor and smashed a raw egg on his head, Russell said only one was punished.
Later, in high school, he said someone posted a fake picture in the locker room of him kissing a man, which caused students to pick on him by pinching and fondling his chest, and he was also ridiculed for his physical appearance. Russell said when he went to the assistant principal about the issue he was told he should change his style of clothing to avoid being teased.
Despite numerous complaints, Russell and his parents say the bullying continued, even after a no-contact order was issued against one of his harassers. In response to Russell’s claims, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said Aberdeen school officials failed to do their job.
“Public school officials must be held accountable when they fail to meet their responsibility to act decisively when a student is subjected to harassment by his peers,” Sarah Dunne, ACLU’s legal director, said in a statement.
“This settlement sends a message to school districts statewide to take strong action as soon as they learn that a student is being bullied.”
Speaking on the settlement, Russell said he learned from his parents to never give up.
“You should fight for your rights – you don’t just walk away.”
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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