There is this succinct moment when you realize no one else is coming to help you or join you. To make me at ease would be too much to ask for. You see I had gone in with eyes wide open hoping the result would be different from my expectations. Yet nonetheless here I am sharing the observations of being the only one with dark skin in an environment. I shall describe the events that led me to postulate upon such a topic. I wonder if Jesus ever experienced being the only one with dark skin in His environment. It does something to ones psyche where you feel that you have turned your back on your family of origin. You see white culture beckons to draw some of the most gifted people away from the place that raised them into excellence. And the benefits are enticing. Very often some sort of economic security is dangled in front of the recruit with a confidence that could only be placed there by years of superiority complex by osmosis.
Right out of high school I attended a Historically Black College called Morehouse. It was a time of being immersed in black culture like never before. Some of the brightest people I’d ever met went there. It was a fresh reminder of the times where this was the only place for black folks to get a decent higher education. Many came by choice or some other compulsion to give back into the culture that had raised us all so well. I hadn’t many white friends and began to develop a distrust for all things that were a part of European culture. With the help of a close friend I developed a robust distrust for Christianity as I was raised and all things perpetuated by American Exceptionalism. This is the idea that we were special and God had blessed us. In time I came to see the brutality of a stratified society based on race. It also remained one propped up by violence and financially oppressive tactics. It is always easier to hate what you don’t know. At that time I knew very few white people, so disdain brewed from a distance.
But this is an essay about tokenism. Or the existence of one person of color in an environment to fulfill some internal quota for the dominant culture. We hold on to these symbols tighter than we do the human and as such the person is expendable when the symbol loses its effectiveness. How many color barriers have been broken because of the strategic advantage that can be gained in competition? Not because of the moral rightness of including black people in society. This is the nature of the abandoned high moral ground that has been claimed for decades. Our morality is tied to success which makes it banal at best and violent at worst. Many times I am not aware of the fact that my presence is being used until after the fact and the love is lost and the relationship has fallen apart. There is a feeling of disappointment that greets the entrance of a token that becomes defended by the joy one is expected to bring. The token is expected to be a mascot of sorts that brings the entertainment one could liken to the oddities that appeared during the traveling circuses that produced racist strange wonder and desire. For this is a life that could not possibly be yearned for but one settles for when another choice does not seem to present itself. One has always to come to the doorstep of white culture to find prosperity. Or do they?I find that the cage of being where we all look alike seems as solid as the one where you are both on display and ignored and relegated to the back doors stages and undercurrents of decisiveness. We could not possibly begin to heal the wounds without addressing the moors of society that force things to be this way. Tokens are always unhappily unsure of where they fit and simultaneously urging to be freed from the constraints of a small-minded society. Expectations miss the freedom of individuality and ultimately of identity. One can have freedom or safety but one cannot have both. This is the reality that continues to come to mind as my truth and not that of another. I’ve decided to eschew the pristine clothing of expectations of who I should be so that I can be who I am. The plan constantly changes and rearranges around the heart and here is where we start to begin to stand. My aim is not to be the one lost in a chase, left behind unable to purchase. I waited so long to be empowered into permission, when this world that I have been unsatisfied with falls short because I was missing.