Who I Am

by E. Amado Williams

I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror as I do every morning. The mirror did not break, needless to say. For years I have been receiving the short end of the stick from others because of petty stuff such as my skin being so dark, my hair being curly though I'm so dark, my skin being so clear though I'm so dark, and other superfluous attacks. Why such antagonism would come from others "like me," escapes me to this day. It eats away at one's self esteem and pleasant disposition. It once ate away at who I am.

I got my first introduction into the western world's way of viewing beauty at an early age. First grade through sixth grade presented some of the meanest and most uncaring people in this world, elementary kids. Elementary school was where I got my first brown paper bag test. Yes, there is such a thing. Me being several shades darker than a brown paper bag, I failed hands down. I got the unwarranted privilege of wearing many labels along with my Polo shirts and Levi jeans. Included were: creature from the black lagoon, tar baby, chocolate, blackie, spook, night, black-out, jet black, crispy critter, ash and a few other labels that make me question if the antagonists kissed their mothers with such foul mouths. It was a case of people being unhappy with who I am.

Now, I'm not black enough. I supposedly sound white. I am abrasive. My hair isn't nappy enough. I don't live in the inner city. My dwellings don't look cultured. If it's not one thing, then it's another. This is just a clear indication that some folk want me to change who I am.

Which shall it be? Wear the ugly labels that I wore with grimaces in elementary school or wear the Clarence Thomas mask, complete with grimaces, that many try to hand me now? Well, it can't be entertained both ways. I articulate with clarity and speak loud enough to be heard. Nothing is more annoying than a man who is tall in stature speaking lower or softer than a diminutive child, except for a gnat that thinks your ear or nose is a resting haven. Yes, I am abrasive. The last thing I need in my life is someone with no direction in their life trying to dictate my limitations or offer ill-intended advice. My hair is wavy, sure. My mother and father are responsible for that, not some chemical product that could cause my wavy hair to fall out. Where I live is of little to no major significance to anyone, but to me. I do not make money to insure the sure risk of having a lazy next door neighbor or locals rob me out of sheer apathy for my blood, breath, and tears. It is no secret that I do not have street corner paintings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass or Malcolm X hanging on my walls, but I am quite pleased with the "original" African art, statues, and masks that grace my home. That truly reflects who I am.

Why is there always a need to treat Blacks like unopened books, constantly judging them? Instead of assuming that the book is not worth reading because the cover isn't fancy or captivating enough, think again. Defacing the covering does not change the pages of the book. The pages represent the heart of the book, the whole, and the story. Then again, if you want to hide something from most people all you have to do is put it in a book. I "read" a lot because that's who I am.

Many moons, seasons, and years have passed since my days in elementary school. Even today, having to face constant sniping at my faith, my good name, my dignity, my self-esteem, and my respect, I am very much pleased with the masterpiece that I am now. After all, God did create man in His own image. I just happen to be a man of a rich, dark skin tone, sadly mistaken and misunderstood by the multitude. If you want to know me then take the time to get to know who I am.

Who I Am by E. Amado Williams

© Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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