I want to start this post by saying that I’m really not one to talk about race or racism. As you can see from my pictures and pretty much throughout every social media channel that I’m on, I’m a mixed race female. My father would tell me stories about the racism he has experienced as a black man, and before the story that I’m about to share with you that happened to me, I thought they were a bit of an exaggeration. The fact that I thought that my dad was exaggerating the racism he experienced as a black man in Canada goes to show that as a mixed race female in this country, I feel safe and never really experienced direct discrimination. While there are many positive things about living in Canada because of how diverse and accepting its people are, that doesn’t mean that racism is not still alive and well. I now know this is true first-hand because of the experience that I’m about to share with you! To be honest I couldn’t have imagined how awful it feels to have somone make such negative judgements about you only based on the colour of your skin. It’s completely wrong and I’m sharing my experience because I want EVERYONE to be aware of how racism impacts the lives of others. Even if you aren’t a person of colour, I’m sure you’ve been impacted by racism as well.
This experience was the first time I have had racism impact me so directly. I have been alive for 19 years as a biracial girl living in Canada and I have never found myself in a situation where I witnessed someone speaking badly about me due to my skin colour. I was at home in my own apartment, with my roommate in her room. In the common area, a different roommate’s brother and a group of his friends were drinking and talking loudly. Keep in mind that all of the rooms are very close to the common area, and my roommate’s room, that we were in, is right off this space in the apartment. We heard a male’s voice ask “Oh, is that fucking Black Mama home?” with a round of laughter to follow. I heard this and was immediately embarassed… they were obviously talking about me, the only black roomate in the place. I was hurt and confused because I really didn’t do anything to lead to this kind of comment. Even if I had, that still would not have been okay to say in ANY situation. I let it slide and didn’t say anything as I continued to sit in my roommate’s room. Just as I was brushing it off I heard them speaking about me once again calling me Black Mama. I really don’t think people understand how engrained the racial slur ‘Black Mama’ is within racist culture. For those of you that don’t know, to call someone ‘Black Mama’ or ‘Mammy’, also spelled mammie, is a Southern United States saying for a black woman who worked as a nanny and/or general housekeeper that, often in a white family dating all the way back to the slavery days, generally a black woman nursed the family’s children.
My roommate and I were rattled and we started to talk about what we were hearing. She told me a few stories about the times that she interacted with this guy that was actually illegally living in our apartment part-time. He has once said to her that she was “pretty normal for an ethnic person”, as if he was complimenting her. He also sent her videos of racist jokes thinking that he was being funny. Coming from racist white person, things like that aren’t really funny especially when you’re talking to an ethnic person, no matter how normal you might think we are. My roomate and him were once in the common room together and she witnessed a friend of his ask who lives in the unit. He began listing my roommate’s names and just referred to me as “the black chick”…as if that “black chick” didn’t have a name.
Hearing these things being said about me made me sick to my stomach. I was hurt, and really didn’t understand why or how this could be happening in 2016. We’ve come a long way in North America, but clearly we have much more to do to address racism in Canada. SO, I decided to confront them. They were right outside the room I was in, in my own apartment, using racial slurs to describe me and laughing about it like they were having a damn good time too. During the confrontation, not only did they not apologize for what they said… they didn’t even admit that they had said ANYTHING racist. Apparently me and my roommate are deaf since we were in the NEXT ROOM. One of them even said they didn’t call me black mama or nigger that night…. meaning they did call me that on other occassions. I was shaken and had to remove myself from the situation because if I didn’t I KNOW my emotions would have gotten the best of me and I would have hurt someone. It would have just fulfilled their beliefs about me acting like the angry black girl, anyways. There’s no point trying to explain to people like that that what they’re doing is ignorant and hurtful.
Once the situation was over I took the time to reflect with a friend. I thought about times in the past that friends of mine (who I’m not actually friends with anymore) would jokingly say things like “oh Kim go pick cotton in the fields” or even call me a monkey. Funnily enough I didn’t really see this as racism, because it was coming from people who I thought were my friends. The thing is, when I do bring up racial issues, a lot of the time people say I’m playing the “black card” or the “race card” and my opinions get devalued because of that. Racism is real, and if it can happen to me living in Canada and in my own home, it can happen to anyone and much worse than my experience. To be seen differently and judged negatively because of my skin colour sickens me, and I’m at a loss of words to describe how it truly feels.
Getting back to the theme of my blog, while this is of course the life of KB, it’s worth mentioning that I do put myself out there for people to judge me and see what I do with makeup and things like that. It’s common for people to judge the way that I look, make comments about my makeup technique, my choice of colours, my use of highlight, or whatever. But, what isn’t common and definitely isn’t okay is for people to make negative comments based on my race. If you experience racism or discrimination and you don’t agree with it, even if you aren’t a person of colour, it’s important to communicate that it’s not okay to hold these beliefs in today’s day and age. I encourage you to speak up and spread the love instead of encouraging people to spread hatred and discrimination. We all play a part in making a better world for everyone, whether that might be through using makeup to make people beautiful or through standing up for your beliefs and shutting down racism when you see it.