By Brenda Ametepe
I want you all to ask yourself the following question, close your eyes and wonder about it for fifteen seconds: Do you want your children and the next generation of people to live in the world we are living now? Go ahead, close your eyes now! Welcome back. If your answer is yes then either you were born yesterday and are too new to this world, or you are a hypocrite and choose not to acknowledge the things that are going wrong in our society. I prefer to stick with the first reason — it makes you look better. If your answer is no, then you clearly know there are a lot of issues we, as human beings, have to deal with to make the world a better place. Climate change is one of the important issues. “If you don’t believe in climate change, come to California,” says Governor Gavin Newsom. Clearly, last time it felt like if we were living on Mars, here in the Bay Area. Moreover, we seem to forget but we are still in the middle of a pandemic! These are all serious issues we all agree we need to work on. However, being Black in America, there is one thing I am more concerned about: Racism.
Talking about racism can be unpleasant, but it is one of the things that makes this world so hard to live on. So today we are going to talk about racism! I can talk about racism all day, I can tell you how it saddens me that in 2020 there is a systematic racism in America, I can talk about how Black communities are fighting for what is supposed to be a legal right, I can talk about how Black children are being affected, I can talk about how the society is constructed to make Black girls feel less beautiful than others, I can talk about how racism is affecting the society is general. There is so much to talk about and change when you sit down and think about it, but today I am just going to share my insights and experience on how it is like to be a Black student in America.
When did this all start? Most people will say colonization and slavery. I agree on that, but the root of racism, in my opinion, is ignorance. I mean think about it for a second, if we look deep, we will see that most racists are not stupid but ignorant. Ignorance is what makes them think that having black skin makes you less valuable than having a white skin color. I am a bioengineering major, so it makes me so sick when people don’t understand the mechanisms behind skin color, because at the end of the day it is simple SCIENCE! So, let’s go back to the basics (yeah, I am a nerd but please hang it there — this is important).
There is a protein in our body called: Melanin. The melanin protein is responsible for the color of the skin. The more Melanin you have, the darker your skin color, the less, the lighter. Simple, hun? This protein is analogous to the one responsible for the coloration of our eyes. Some people have green eyes, others blue, brown… It is normal in society to have people with different eyes color. Why can it be the same with skin color? Do we discriminate against people who have green eyes? I haven’t heard of such a thing. So why is it that having black/brown skin makes us less human when at the end is a matter of protein?! Now you wonder why is it that Black people secrete more melanin? Well, we all know that the root of humanity is in Africa, and the hot climate of Africa is what makes Black people black. In fact, our body is perfectly made to protect us against the harmful effects of the sun on our skin. Thus, to protect our skin from damage, the body secretes Melanin. Africans are black because of the hot climate in Africa. White people are white because they are less exposed to the sun. There is also something called DNA and heredity which makes Black stay black and White, white from generation to generation, but that is a story for another time. Now you have it, folks. The hate racists give is a hate for a protein they also have in their body.
Have I experienced racism? I think you cannot be Black in America if you haven’t experienced some sort of racism — sad but true. It may be a racist comment, a simple look or gesture, but I think all my sisters and brothers out there agree on this. I can clearly remember the first time someone acted in a racist way toward me. It was during my second semester of college, and this happened a year ago, but I can remember it as if it happened yesterday. So, we were a Thursday evening physics lab composed of a dozen students. We usually paired up during the lab and turned in an assignment at the end. That day though, for whatever reason, the instructor decided to pair us up. I usually work with another Black guy from my physics lab but that day the instructor paired me up with a White dude. I was okay with it. We sat down, the instructor gave us instructions to follow, and we were about to start the experiment. Just before we got started, my lab partner was talking with some of his friends in front of us and I heard him say “What does she know? What can she do?” He turned back and asked me if I mind if he worked with his friends instead of working with me. I did not want to make a scene. I did not have the strength to, because I was still processing what he said about me. Of course, I did not want to work with someone who thinks I am not smart because of my skin color. So, I told him I was okay with him working with his friends. “It is okay,” I said. “You can go,” I said. And he went along and did the experiment with his friends. On my way back home, I realized that his comments and look affected me. Why are you judging me based on the color of my skin? Which right do you have to assume such a thing? I know my value, and I know I am smart, but I am also a human being and facing a racist comment for the first time shocked me a bit. Here comes my argument about ignorance. That guy is uneducated (and I am not insulting him). Imagine he knew about Melanin and the mechanism of skin coloration as I explained above. Would he still think I am not smart because I am Black? Well, yes he may, and he may not also. I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt because we should all be giving the chance to learn, and I personally think that the world can be better if people were more educated. Education is everything! One the other hand, some people are just too stubborn, anchored in the bad roots, and don't want to change their not-so-right principles. If you are that type of person reading this, please don’t teach your principles to your children because you will be creating another wave of racists.
I am angry and so tired about all this, because it keeps happening again and again. George Floyd’s situation is not the first, it just reminded us of what was already happening. His death got so mediatized because someone was smart enough to capture the moment on his cellphone. We must acknowledge the fact that this happens every time, but we don’t hear about it because most of those situations don’t get filmed. As Will Smith says: “Racism is not getting worse, it is being filmed.” Please educate yourself, your family, children, and friends about racism. We are all actors of the world, and it is our duty to make the world a better place. We should all — White, Brown, Yellow, or Black — be concerned about racism because at first, we are all human beings. To my sisters and brothers, keep pushing! NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE! Love you all. And see you on my next one. Aurevoir!
Brenda Ametepe is a bioengineering student in Santa Rosa Junior College, California. She is passionate about the biology of the human body and aspires to become a medical doctor in the future.