Black on Black Hate

Normally, my Mixed musings are upbeat or things that amuse me. Aside from the one about the woman faking black, these are tales from the lighter side of being light skinned. Sadly, this post isn't like the others.

Sometimes I forget that there are black people who hate other black people. Specifically, who hate black people who look as if, 150 years ago, we would have worked in the big house and been one of massas favorites, which sounds like a twisted hell of rape, abuse and privilege.

I do sometimes meet folks who need a little convincing of my authenticity -- a few key words or phrases that show I'm keepin it real. But being real is about all the Court of Black Opinion in San Francisco usually demands.

A recent trip to Nashville was a blast from the antebellum past.

I land in Nashville one summer evening. Having just taken a 3+ hour flight, I'm wearing glasses, my hair is pulled back and I'm in some comfy combo of jeans and t-shirt. In other words, by no means am I showing off.

My brother (who is white) picks me up and we immediately dash to the grocery store. We're talking and laughing as we walk up to the store doors, where a young, dark-skinned black woman is working security. As I angle to give her the "I see you, sister" nod, she turns away and speaks to another woman working the cash register.

"Light skinned," she says, using her outdoor voice and head to point at me. "I hate me some light-skinned girls."

(Sputter, sputter, loss of words) "Really?!" I gape, now trailing behind my brother to bug my eyes at her.

In the weeks that have followed, I've thought back on that moment several times. I wish I'd been emotionally and mentally prepared so I could have said to her, "Sister, when we hate on ourselves, we hold ourselves back." or "Yeah? Well I'm glad my man doesn't feel that way!" or "Why waste your time generating hate for your own people? Spend it pulling yourself and others up." Or some other wise-ish, enlightening, mind-expanding but short thought. Instead, I spent the whole time we were in the grocery store trying to figure out how this kind of destructive ish is still happening in 2015 when we've got so much larger fish to fry?

When I shared this story with a friend from Memphis, she shook her head and said, "Yep, Nashville black folks don't have any power so they spend their energy on dumb stuff. In Memphis, folks have some kind of power, so we're more about getting stuff done."

It was a good reminder. When we're made to feel less than and like an "other," it's hard to not turn that hate around and use it to make other people feel less than and like an other. In the face of blind hate, I'm glad to have the love of friends to help me turn the other cheek.

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