Don't Assume That You Know Me

For the people who don't understand the impact of their words,

For the lady in trader joe’s, why is it the only thing that you saw was my skin colour? For the guy in my high school, did you not see how nice I was to you or did you only like the warmth my body gave you? For the girl in the mirror, don’t you see that you carry the beauty and grace from generations of women that came before you?

Ever since I was a little girl people would always ask my parents what they did to my hair. They wondered how it was so curly and where the red undertones came from. They didn't know that my curly hair was from my mom. They also didn't know that when dark hair is in the sun for a long time, it turns red because the sun bleaches it. By the time I got older, my teachers would ask what ethnicity I was or what I was mixed with.At that time, I didn't know how to respond, so I just said "I don’t know." At that age I just knew that I looked different than all the other kids at my school and it made me feel like I couldn’t fit in.

                                                                    Photo courtesy of Rachel Beharry

Throughout the years I went to school, I got tired of people asking what my race was and how I identified myself. To my teachers and the kids in school, I was the "black-asian kid" that had big eyes and ate strange food. To some I was another “terrorist from Syria” as many had called me during the elections of 2016. 

I never felt like I had a place in this world. I felt like I spent my entire life validating who I was because people simply could not understand why women of colour, like me, did not fit into their perfect little standards. I felt like people dismissed that my culture and I were beautiful, I felt like the only thing people knew about my culture was how to use it for things like Coachella; I would see pictures of people using bindis all over social media. Someone at one point even said that I was “pretty for black girl.” Let me clarify, in case anyone had the same assumption, but I am not black. I felt like the person saying that assumed I was black just because of my skin colour, when in reality I do not have the same struggles as black people. Grouping people together based on pure assumption from looks overshadows the struggles that each person of colour has to go through.

                                                                        Photo courtesy of The Odyssey 

                                                                      Photo courtesy of Mic Network

I felt like Caucasian people had to ‘approve’ of how beautiful my culture and heritage was and I don’t think they understood how these things add to the oppression that heavily influences America today. It made me wonder why my thick, healthy hair wasn't seen as beautiful, even though so many people get extensions. Why I can’t wear certain clothes that hug my curves without being told that I look slutty, but when Kylie Jenner does it, she’s a #NovaBabe? How come I can’t appreciate the beauty of my skin colour but when Ariana Grande wears a fake tan she's called “iconic?”

For my women of colour out there, you are incredibly stunning and you are beautiful because of the struggles and tiger stripes that you carry and so much more than that too. You cannot be changed or re-imagined because they will never understands what it is like to be a woman of colour, just like you do. And so honey, keep being flawless because no one can take that away from you.

                                                              Photo courtesy of MadisynMahagoni

And for clarification purposes: I do not identify as black or asian. Don't call me things I'm not just because you see things on the new. Yes, I see colour because everything in my life has been about race, so don’t tell me that it isn’t.

I am a Trinidadian woman defined by my nation of origin, my people are not black, white, or asian, they are Caribbean. Celebrities like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Notorious B.I.G., and Cardi B have also faced the struggles of being a person of colour. Rihanna has talked about her problems with ethinicity in a 2008 interview with Allure she talked about the confusion she felt as a child when she was growing up with her mom in Barbados. Her mom is black, but when se went to school, she "was getting called 'white' and [classmates] would look at [her] and would curse [her] out." Nicki Minaj, who is from Trinidad, also talks about her struggles as a successful women of color. Cardi B who is from the Caribbean talks about how "one thing that always bothers [her] is that people know so little about [her] culture." In the interview with CR Fashion Book, she says that a lot of people attack her because they feel like she doesn't say that she's black. Even celebrities have these issues of people trying to make decisions about them for them. With that said, at the end of the day if you don’t see how beautiful I am, I’ll still wake up flawless and take my place as a Goddess, each and every single day.

                                                                   Photo courtesy of Smarttraveller

Signed a supportive sister,

RAE