Processing Blackness

Guest article by Shima St. Germain
Agnes Scott College


The history with my race has been an exhausting roller coaster ride. It’s been riddled with questioning, conscious searching for belonging, impostor syndrome, hatred, lack of understanding, and a boat-load of confusion with myself, the world, and everything in between. There was a moment of perceived peace after graduating from college where I thought I’d finally become one with my Blackness, reaching acceptance and understanding, but then came Malaysia. Malaysia made me realize that for twenty-two years I’d learned to deal with my race rather than truly accept and love it. My Blackness had been thrust center-stage in a way that I was not comfortable with or ready for. I suddenly began to feel the need to prove and constantly reaffirm that yes, I was American, and make it clear that I was also Black American, Haitian American, and a woman of color and that there wasn’t one American prototype. I began to create a habit of judging myself and projecting perceived generalizations onto people. Every interaction left me drained and wishing that hibernation was an actual human ability. The first half of being in Malaysia was quite eye opening to me. I was able to identify my issue of internalized oppression and begin to process through its effects. As mentally debilitating as it has been I am now truly able to process the fact that I am Black enough and that my Blackness is not measured by the generalizations made by the society I live in. Although this is the abridged version of my experience with processing my Blackness in Malaysia I think it is enough background information for understanding the poems below.



IN CONJUNCTION WITH DU BOIS

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness,
Please don’t mock.
Please don’t giggle amongst each other when I pass.
This sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others,
It’s awkward.
It’s awkward because you’re staring.
Of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity,
Your stares remind me of my skin.
My skin reminds me of all the things I’m not in your eyes.
So please don’t mock


DISCONNECT
How can I connect?
When they validate my thoughts,
As they giggle and say,
“They think you’re so exotic”,
“And they were like, n****r, n****r, n****r”,

How can I connect?
When they play their music with the n words
Blaring and drowning out my silent discomfort,


When they say,
“Well, is it just a race thing?”
When I’m trying to explain a situation more complex and nuanced,
When my emotions are reduced to a single repeated narrative
Of the Black girl being too sensitive,
Forcing redaction, retracing, skin hardening,
How can I connect?


To be conscious of Whiteness,
When Whiteness is not conscious of Blackness,
When Whiteness feels discomfort only at the mention of Blackness,
How can I connect?


When their actions reflect the actions of those back home,
Confirming that no matter where I go,
My struggles will still suffer from erasure,
That being Black in Malaysia
Comes second to being Black among Americans
Generalizing the American experience
And expecting I’ll agree and grin and bear it


How can I connect?
When they barge in, uninvited, unwelcomed, unwanted,
Leaving no space for privacy nor safety,
When they don’t notice the discomfort.


How can I connect?
When I looked for an ally,
When I wanted to confide and wanted to be raw and true
But was reduced to just another race thing,
When I was ignored as me,
But accepted as the version of me who’s always adapted, assimilated


So how can I connect?
When I’ve grown jaded with Whiteness,
When no matter how many times I look at things through their white lens,
They won’t stoop to pick up my black lens,
And though I sympathize and empathize with their difficulties,
Mine is just another narrative
Written off as the angry black girl,
Who can no longer get angry,
Since she’s making it out to be just another race thing,
‘Cause God forbid she brings her perspectives into the mix.

THE RINGGIT QUESTION
Miss where are you from?
America.
Where did you think I was from?
She laughs.
I chuckle.
Leave the answer in the air.
What a breath of fresh air when ignorance is adorable.


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