THE BLOG

How My Father's Words Turned Racism Into Self-Respect

02/02/2016 12:58 EST | Updated 02/02/2017 05:12 EST
AAGAMIA via Getty Images
Father with daughter (4-5) in park

I was only 9 years old when I came face to face with a 'racist'. The sad thing about this encounter was not only what was happening to me, but the other person, who had no idea that they were actually inciting racial hatred. That person was another 9 year old girl.

I remember the day like yesterday because it was my first day at this school. I was excited when I woke up that morning and couldn't wait to meet my new friends, as I had left my old elementary institution to go to this Catholic school which my dad thought would be better for me.

The day was going okay until the lunch break. That's when this group of boys and girls walked towards me giggling. At that moment, I became hopeful and happy thinking to myself that I would soon become a member of their clique. I was the new girl on the block and wanted to make friends so we could all play during our breaks.

"Why are you so black?" asked the little white girl.

Not understanding what was happening and where this was going, I simply shrugged my shoulders. Then she started to laugh and point at me, shouting "Blackie." Her friends all joined in, even the ones that looked like me and that became my school name for what seemed like an eternity.

Days passed before I mentioned anything about the incident, but what drove me off the cliff was hearing some of the students calling me "ugly." It was one thing to state the obvious that I am black, but to go as far as calling me ugly because of the colour of my skin was heartbreaking. Even I knew that at such a tender age.

Some would argue that the black kids joined in, but knowledge and experience soon made me realize that those children were simply doing something to take the attention off of them and targeting someone who was very dark in complexion. Much darker than they are.

I remember one of the black girls from this clique, who many would refer to as a "butter skin" (lighter shade of black) even tried to make herself feel better when I told her she was black as well. Her response was that she had long straight hair and that my hair was "picky." In other words, I had negro nappy black people hair and she had 'white hair,' which I guess in her eyes was God's greatest gift to mankind. No offense to my white female friends.

My emotions got the best of me that day and my strength to stand up to these little 'racists' grew weaker and weaker as the days went by. I finally broke down one day and confessed to my dad about the sad days I had been experiencing, all because I was black.

I remember crying as I explained the things that were being said to me on a daily basis by these 9 and 10 year old bullies to include the nickname " Blackie" they had given to me. Then I asked him one of the hardest questions a child could ever ask any of their parents or anyone as a matter of fact:

"Am I ugly daddy"?

He knew exactly what I was asking, because this was not simply about ugly versus pretty, but about the colour of my skin and more importantly, my identity.

Now if anyone knew my dad when he was in my life, the first thing they would tell you is that he was very black conscious, so I was in for an earful.

My father sat with me that afternoon right up to the evening, sharing his childhood stories and movies from his DVD player about my ancestors and why I should be proud to be black. He explained to me that I am a product of a very powerful group of people who had endured the harshest of times, but because of their resilience, was able to rise up, come together and fight for their rights to be recognized.

He went on to explain how beautiful the black skin is, painting a rich chocolatey picture that started to make me crave for actual chocolate. Ahhh! My dad made me fall in love with myself that day. He made me appreciate my blackness and all that my ancestors did to protect the very things that allow me to identify as a black woman.

Since that day, I have embraced my beautiful skin, my hair, my curves and even my bruises because they remind me of why I am black. For all that and so much more, I am proud to be Black.

In a world that often tells black people they are ugly and less than, Black History Month is equal to that one conversation I had with my dad.

Black History Month is when we see our ancestors coming to life and sharing their stories in film and even during our school plays.

Black History Month may be the only time our black boys and girls get to be reminded of how beautiful and resilient they are and that is why Black History Month is important to me.