Struggling with Consciousness

Struggling with Consciousness

Rebekah Green

        Eight years old and partially oblivious. I was smart enough to call George W. Bush a dummy, but oblivious to not realize a vital part in my life.

        Nine years old and I’m 1% conscious. I hate the skin I’m in. I want to be like the girls on TV with beautiful hair that shows its length naturally and each strand moves in the wind a tiny waist and skinny nose. I want to watch TV and see tons of people like me; I’m tired of having to look for the black people in every show I watch. I want to watch TV and be happy because of how many others, I see, like me.

        My mother bought me a doll at this age, my skin color of course, but it lacked an important feature: my hair. She displayed the characteristics of a white girl. She didn’t have my hair, my lips, my nose, my anything. She was a white girl with a tan. This furthered my obsession. I was in a culture where white was right and that’s what I wanted to be.

        It wasn’t until I was 12 that I became 22% conscious. I read a bunch of books. Most of these books always had logos or pictures of places on the front instead of people. Whenever I read these books I realized that when my mind played out the movie that was the book, each scene displays characters with one thing in common; they were all white. I would ask my family if they saw the same things I did. Most of the answers were that they never thought about it but it depends on how the character speaks or what they do determine if they are black. Why does determining whether a character will look like people you see every day depend on how they speak or act? Not all African-Americans speak or act the same using slang and “hoop” yet we as a race characterize ourselves and put ourselves in a box just like the rest of the world. That was the moment I realized how oppressed/ brainwashed majority of our minds were. Me, a girl had only gone to majority black schools her entire life and lived in only majority black neighborhoods, and a 63 year old woman ,who lived majority of her life in rural Arkansas with coloreds, to not even think about our race people in our inner speech, was crazy. So I decided to change my point of view and make every character in my book a minority. I didn’t imagine it would be as hard as it was. So hard I wanted to just switch it back to the whites, but I didn’t, I had to break my mind free.

        I was at 18% consciousness and declining between ages 10-15. I was hiding in my unconscious mind. While I still tried to somewhat change characters in books I just was living life. I ignored problems and serious issues regarding race and sometimes let my mind change characters back to Anglo style, forgetting about all the work I did to try to change it.

Age 16 I regressed nearing 16%. I knew issues existed but refused to take a stand or voice my opinions. I would see a controversial race related issue posted on social media but would just keep scrolling because I didn’t care. I was no better than majority of whites. The ones that refused to recognize issues in their country, the ones who won’t talk about the problem simply because it makes them uncomfortable and even worse the ones who try to put down people of color when they are already oppressed. The number was stagnant. It was stagnant because I knew what I needed to do. I needed to wake up. Knowledge is power and at some point I needed to stop being weak. Later that year I watched two documentaries on basically the same thing. “Light Girls” and “Dark Girls” were documentaries about racism within the black race and how we would put each other down based on our own level of melanin. As I watched these documentaries I felt my consciousness percentage go up. They discussed many issues that I had chosen to be blind to before, but unfortunately it was only a fraction of the ones that existed. After the shows were done I cried. I didn’t even really know why, I just had an overwhelming feeling, that I didn’t even know, take over me and I needed to let it out. 16 and still at 16%. It was as if my mind wouldn’t move because it knew I would need to pass one more obstacle before the number raised.

It was August and my community was in uproar, as well as the world. An unarmed teenager Mike Brown was shot by the police for no reason. I would go to protest and be present but my mind wasn’t all the way there. TV crews and reporters were everywhere. I heard ghetto birds every night in the sky because my house was the street perpendicular to West Florissant. Every time I protested I was scared. Not because I would get hurt, but because I didn’t want to be the one a reporter singled out. I didn’t want to be asked a question with my community behind me and let them, as well as my people, down by failing to answer with what I thought. I didn’t want to end up someone who was ignorant and didn’t even know about the cause they were standing up for. A few days later I formed my own opinions. I realized all those times my brother would get scared with the cops behind us weren’t facades. I realized how oppressed my people were and how much racism there still was. I also realized that no one but us will understand the struggles, the hate, the sly racism, the blatant racism, the culture, and the life of being black.

Knowledge is power. I knew some of the hardships my people faced, of some of the black holocaust, but I barely knew much of in between. Sure I knew about segregation but no more true detail than that. For me, I wanted to know my people’s past before I thought about our future. I needed to know more about where my ancestors had been before I figured out where we were going. So I did some research on what they don’t tell us in the history books and in class.

I was nearing 35% consciousness. My eyes and mind were opened to two devastating events: Black Wall Street and The Tuskegee Experiment. The page  I read was about how Black Wall Street, or Little Africa was the name given to one of the most successful and wealthiest all black communities in the U.S. It was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of whites in 1921. In less than 12 hours the once thriving city was just dust and ashes with some 3,000 dead, 10,000 homeless, and over 600 businesses gone. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, 2 movie theatres, a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, half a dozen private planes, and a bus system. The event was a part of a practice that whites did in the US called “racial cleansing” where mobs of whites would torture and kill black people in their own neighborhoods. The US government allowed the practice and did not punish whoever participated in it.

The next article I read about was about the Tuskegee Experiment. It started in 1932 where the US Public Health Service Department conducted a study in which 201 illiterate black sharecropping males were injected with the syphilis disease. The hope was to find a treatment program for blacks but the name of the experiment was “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male”. Although the participants were to have informed consent they were instead told they were being treated for “bad blood” in return for doing the study the men were given free meals, medical exams, and burial insurance. Even though penicillin was found to be a cure for syphilis in 1945 the study went on for 27 more years. The study stopped when the media found out about it and it was given a bad rap. How could I not know about these horrifying things? It made me wonder why we were never taught these things. Why didn’t we ever know about these vital events in history? Is the government trying to hide these things from us? Why didn’t I ever learn about racial cleansing? These are only two of the things my people went through and this was hard to find. How do I find out about the other things my people don’t know?

17 years old and at 41% consciousness. I knew more about our history and was learning more and I learned where I was on issues in the black community but I didn’t know where I was with my blackness. I was 8 wanting to be white, 10-15 not worrying about it anything, 16 focusing on issues in my community, and now 17, okay I guess with being black, but I wanted to be proud of my blackness and adore my skin and my hair and my traits given to me from my ancestors but I just didn’t. I would say I wanted to marry a white man, Asian man, Latino man, saw beauty in every race but my own and that was a problem. No matter who I married I was going to have a half black child and I would have to teach them to be proud of that side too considering the big part it would play in their lives.  In order to fix my own psyche I started following black pride pages on Instagram. Just like when I was 8 I knew that media was a big part of anyone’s psyche. The more I saw people of my own persuasion the more pride I started to take in my skin and the history of it. The more beautiful I started to see myself as well as others around me. There were also some problems with this in my mind. The more the sites told me how amazing my race was  and how much better we were than our oppressors the more I struggled to not think we were better than white people.

The more I learned about how my history was wiped away and my mind was filled with lies instead of true history I started to hate.  When I learn about the true form of Jesus when I had been worshipping his fake form, when I learn King Tut’s true form rather than the one they tried to brainwash us with, how black people were actually the first Native Americans, how a white man rapes 14 kids and gets 5-12 years and a black boy shoots a police dog and gets 20, when I learn how much stuff they white washed and took from us and are still taking from us, and how we are prepared to be unequal and unsuccessful, I hate.  

I am at 45% consciousness as I struggle with my own mind. I can’t hate all white people for every horrible  deed their people did can I? Well why not they seem to hate your people as a whole for no reason and you have one? Adding racism to an already racist world won’t help anything. Rewarding them with your kindness after they reward you with hatred won’t help either.  I have plenty of nice white friends, they aren’t what is wrong with the world. Well they don’t help either, do you see them using their white privilege to uplift people of color…no. They can’t help the way they were born any more than I can. No, but just like you they can gain consciousness, and help the underrepresented and oppressed instead of constantly taking from them. What have they taken from us? Open your mind, they are constantly trying to be like us , they date black guys , wear cornrows, sing rap songs, they get tans to be darker, try to get bigger butts and plumper lips, they say nigga like its nothing, they are trying to steal our culture again and you’re too dumb to see it.

I named this inner voice that was at war with me in my mind Fatima. She made me wonder if I was a black girl named Rebekah or if I was Rebekah who just so happened to be black. I had to find a way to coexist with her. I still had things I needed to learn and I knew she would be there every step of the way. I still have problems figuring out what to think and how I will define myself. But that’s just one of my struggles with consciousness.