On racism, the "black" experience and staying true to your morals..
In the musical adaptation of my life that is sure to hit stages and subsequent big screens in the year 2030 the following post will be set to a live performance by the incomparable Beyonce Knowles. #Flawless as ever but now a recluse, she will shock fans as she comes out of retirement for one night only. With much fanfare she will take to the stage in a cloud of dry ice and feathers and perform, "Listen" to a montage of some of my tougher moments.
Those unfamiliar with the song "Listen" can take a listen below - but for those without an extra 4 minutes to spare should note that it's about making tough choices and finding your voice.
The montage will include moments from my childhood where my mother taught me to always stand up for what I knew to be right regardless of what those around me did. I promise this isn't another #YoMomma post but seriously she has taught me a lot.
Like standing up for inclusion on the playground when they made my autistic classmate wear an orange safety vest at recess. I was 7 years old, and I couldn't put my finger on it - but I knew something wasn't right. So I said something, and after a few weeks the vests were gone and the school was working on integrating students with intellectual disabilities by creating a buddy system.
Throughout my childhood I was always standing up to peers and authority; whether it was disobeying the supply teacher and going to bathroom anyway or defending my best friend who had cancer while we were in grade 2 - sometimes my outspoken-ness got me in trouble, but I always left a situation without regrets.
One of the absolute craziest things I dealt with growing up, was my classmates telling me I was adopted. They would see my caucasian mother dropping me off at school, and couldn't fathom that a white woman could bear a "black" child. They convinced me I was adopted, and when I would question my mother and report back to my classmates they would say,
"Well of course she lied to you. She doesn't want to tell you yet."
This went on for some time, but children grow up. And I forgave them as they had small-minds, incapable of comprehending a biracial baby.
What I can't forgive is adults with the same small minds...
The Aughts + Beyond
Working in the fashion industry there have been the naysayers that tell me:
"that company doesn't hire black people,"
"Black people never make it to corporate"
then there are those that *in my opinion* waste away on social media waxing poetic about the struggle that is "being black".
I've always looked at it like this... we all struggle. Black, white, asian, gay, trans, straight.you name it!
to say that one struggle is worse than another, is like comparing degrees of physical pain in two separate people. everyone's got it the worst. We've all been dealt our hands. And when it comes to cards I have quite a few to play.
NB: I did go to post-secondary with a biracial lesbian who was adopted by jews and later became a trans man. So if anyone is keeping score that's at least 6 cards.
I have always remained relatively quiet on issues of race when it comes to social media.
But I will say this there is an obvious lack of black designers, editors etc. but the same could be said of most other minorities. The rare occasion that I see a person of colour on style.com comes when a designer has chosen to send an all-white look down the runway and wants to exaggerate the effect by casting an african model with dark skin and a bald head. It's a proven formula and with it designers can tick their "ethnic" box for the season - but what does that do for those of us who aren't Nubian glamazons? or who want to be apart of the industry as something other than a model?
My only course of action has been to be the best version of myself I can possibly be so that when companies who may or may not have long histories of "not hiring black people" see my CV, they can look past the colour of my skin and hire me for me.
The idea is simple ; rise above so they don't see your colour. I read about this phenomenom years ago, they called it the #BeyonceEffect. her talent had transcended race and she was accepted the world over.
Of course there are the underlying issues re: shade. Yes Beyonce, is a beautiful light skin woman.
but she is still considered black. just like anyone who has even a drop of "black" blood in them is considered by society.
which brings me to my conclusion.
recently I was at the centre of a racial issue at work. The issue and it's post became my most-liked post ever on facebook (300 and counting), My only hope would be that in 2015 my highest liked post would have nothing to do with my race. After weeks of on-going and nasty comments about people of all races, the talk turned to "lazy black people" and a debate infront of my face about whether or not I was "black-black" or as one of my coworkers called me, Caramel.
In the past I'd often kept quiet about issues of race that affected me in the workplace - but I've had had it happen so many times that I know these things don't go away and if you don't speak up things will never change .
I won't go in to any further details here, just that I gave them a piece of my mind; some cold-hard facts about the spending habits of the "lazy blacks" and how they account for over half of our footwear and accessory business before grabbing my belongings and heading for the door.
The outpouring of support from my family and friends on facebook was overwhelming and the comment section alive with healthy debate about the systemic racism in the fashion industry.
A steady pay cheque, dressing celebrities and designer clothes are all things I love - but I love myself more than that.
wearing .... H&M 2015 Press collection "Caramel" bomber, Krane tshirt, Diesel Black gold belt, H&M 2015 Press collection denim, Python & Watersnake tote, Rag & Bone desert boots, and Links of London arm-party.