Today is my birthday.
I have a deep love for birthdays. And not just because of the spontaneous phone calls, the cupcakes, the gifts, the wishes, the partying, the cards I’ll save forever (that’s what drawers are for)… but because I love getting older. Why would anyone want to stay forever twenty-one? That sounds miserable. Bring on the wrinkles – those are signs of LIVING! I find it thrilling to tuck another year of experience under my belt. To know that much more. To be able to love that much more. If you play it right, every single birthday should bring a year that’s better than the last.
Well! This year I’m starting off in some weird ass territory. I’m incredibly humbled by all of this. You may have noticed over the past few days I’ve taken a step back from blogging; a step back from this media maelstrom. Your comments and articles have kept me glued to my phone throughout a weekend of a friend’s wedding festivities. Whaaaaat in the world have I done? I have erupted a bizarre spring of blurry racial boundaries, hair self-esteem, white shame, American history and social status quo. Many people commend my fro-wearing ways, but comments fueled by anger and a history of oppression far outweigh them. Each comment and article is a stroke on the portrait of our world’s collective view on racial issues today. An eye-opening – and highly personalized – look at society as it currently stands.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the problem here (White girl wears fro, life changes, what’s the big whoop?), I wanted to share a piece of the very first comment that rolled in on my birthday at midnight; one that blaringly hits on the very core of the issue:
“The truth is that you can take the wig off and go back to white privilege. My hair is natural and more textured than any of the wigs in your pictures. I know that I have to wear a wig or straighten my hair for job interviews and in some corporate settings. I am judged negatively by society still in 2012 when I wear my God given natural hair. It’s a serious struggle for black women to deal with which is why the majority of us straighten our hair.”
It is comments like these that hurt the most. I am angry for her. I am angry at the system. I want to help, but fear I cannot. Dear reader, I am so sorry to have hurt you. See, when I started wearing the fro, I simply did not have the perception that an afro was in any way a subpar style to my own. After the original party, I never saw it as a costume – I dress in crazy outfits and make hand gestures all the time! (My Facebook photos are public if you don’t believe me.) Many of you have asked, what IS my new “enlightening” perception in the fro? When I wear it, people receive me with more even smiles than as a blonde. People are friendlier, strangers seem more at ease to strike up a conversation. I love the beauty of it and it makes me feel extra courageous and yes, BADASS – in photos and in real life. Freedom of expression – it’s as simple as that.
I tell you all this not in defense, but in offense. I actively want each of you to know that I freakin’ love that fro from the bottom of my soul! And yes, I’d wear it to a job interview in a heartbeat. It’s fierce. And if I feel that way, I can’t help but think that others might too.
As one of the reporters who interviewed me put it, “I love the fro but I would never have the courage to wear one. I have too much white guilt.” And there it struck me – I had never felt such a thing before. Should I feel white guilt? My view of the world sets people as equals, but unfortunately in reality the system is fucked up. I feel guilty for hurting my fellow people, but the thought of feeling guilty for being white – to tiptoe around stereotypes like they’re grenade bombs – made me feel even guiltier. If I were to develop white guilt, that’d mean I’d be placing other races subconsciously below mine. My subconscious doesn’t roll like that.
So, I have a few dilemmas here.
ONE: Do I continue on with this blog? I have considered shuttering it altogether today and putting up a goodbye post. Extinguishing the problem and moving on. But then I remembered why I started this blog journey: With a promise to share my experiences of seeing life through new eyes, good or bad. And WHOAH cowboy, is this an experience. HELLO “new lens” through which to see life. I was never treated poorly when wearing the fro – but I sure am now, after being pegged as racist. Dude, this is a very real human experience that I sincerely hope YOU will never have. It would be unfair for me to run and hide and stop sharing my thoughts just because it went sour.
TWO: Do I continue on with wearing the fro? Knowing that simply by wearing it, I stir up feelings of injustice? How horrible. I understand the issue frighteningly well now. But if I stopped wearing it, the problem that concerns me and haunts this country most would not just go away. I will have still offended people, and little girls would still wake up worrying that their hair isn’t good enough. I actually haven’t even worn the blonde or the black one all week out of guilt and astonishment. But I can’t hide it: I miss my fro dearly! Life is not the same without it!
Hippy dippy white chick in a fro accidentally tries to save the world?
Oh lord. For this one day, let me have my delusional cake and eat it too!
PS. Tired of commenting? Call in, let’s talk! I’m honored that some journalists and radio hosts want to chat with me on air. I’ll be on Chocolate Cake Radio Wednesday night around 9:30 pm EST- I thank these lovely women for finding me, looking past the surface (AKA reading carefully and stalking me on the internetz) and realizing I may be crazy but I ain’t racist. Also, I’ll be on NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin at some point soon. I’m humbled to be having a conversation with this Emmy-award winning journalist on Thursday. This is not any sort of journey I expected, but I am learning so much – SO MUCH – so I just need to go along for the ride.
PPS. I’ve dedicated this birthday to the It Gets Better campaign, something I decided weeks ago that now holds a bit of an amplified meaning. If you are in the place to give or are able to create a video, that is my birthday wish. It’s a gay organization, but the concept applies to everyone. No matter how dim things look, no matter what you are going through, no matter who stands against you… just know: IT GETS BETTER AND BETTER.