Growing Up Beige: Black People Scare Squirrels

My mom loves telling this story about when I was a little girl walking with her through Fairmount Park.

We’re walking through the park, I was about 4 years old. A squirrel runs by as we get near.

“Mommy, you scared that squirrel.”

“Yeah, squirrels are scared of people. They’ll run when we get too close.”

“Yeah okay, but you scared the squirrel.”

“Me? You didn’t scare it too?”

“No.”

“Well why did scare the squirrel?”

“Because you’re brown.”

Yeah guys, from the mouth of a four year old, black people scare squirrels. Wait, it gets worse!

“So I scared the squirrel because I’m brown?”

“Yeah.”

“You didn’t scare the squirrel?”

“No?”

“But you’re brown too…”

My mom says I looked confused.

“No, I’m beige.”

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^Brown^

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^Beige^

So where do squirrels draw the line in their discrimination? My mom investigated further.

“So who else is brown? Does your Gran Gran scare squirrels?”

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“No.”

“How about your uncle Elliott?”

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“Yes.”

And from those separate ends of the spectrum, my mom asked about people closer and closer to my complexion, and she discovered that squirrels then started discriminating based on hair texture. Relatives with straightened hair were beige, those with curly or kinky hair were brown. This was me at four years old.

I used to share that story as a joke. It was funny and crazy how prejudice I was as a kid, and completely untaught to be so. Shocking, but comical. Kids say the darndest things, right? I told the story to a couple people sitting at the bar at my cafe one day. Peers, fellow 20-somethings. White. Typical coffeeshop types. I got a reaction I had never experienced before. It made them sad. They shook their heads in disbelief.

“To think that there are children growing up to see their own race as bad, scary even, just in their innocent understanding of their world…heartbreaking. This is where we are, sad,” one of them said to me.

They understood the underlying sinister cause of a child to have such a worldview. I guess it was one thing to understand the forces at play in your society, to understand the concept of racism and institutionalized racism. But to actually apply that to personal accounts isn’t something they’re often privy to. It had never occurred to me either until that moment, honestly.

I haven’t grown up to be much different in my understanding of the world since four years of age. If anything, I’ve gotten worse. A simple internalization of the imbalance of my world turned into confirmations through negative experiences that maybe this imbalance is justified, and I’m happy to not associate with the receivers of the short end. I’m beige, and squirrels don’t fear me. I can walk through the park peacefully.

I’m going to share more memories and stories of growing up beige, because I didn’t think it was something anyone would find relatable, but maybe it is. I’ve felt bad not following through on my promise of a piece about Michael Brown when I posted Java and Jokes on Hold two whole years ago. I didn’t forget. When I sat and tried to write, I just didn’t know how to talk about it. I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t feel like my feeling upset was legitimate, because I’ve never associated with the black community. Would my beige words matter? Would they seem sincere? Why did I suddenly care, really? From what perspective do I write this? Am I angry or upset enough? Wait, this kind of stuff happens all the time? I didn’t know. I might as well be a white person trying to care, because I never felt so outside. Rather, I’ve never felt uncomfortable being outside. I was entering a point in my life that I never imagined reaching, 

The point where being beige became unsustainable. 

And I don’t know which way is forward. But I have to figure it out, and I invite you on the adventure too.

 

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Hiatus, BRB

And yet again, I have neglected to post on a weekly basis. Goodness why am I so impossible? I’m sorry. But look, check this out. A new year is right around the corner, and I’m ready to actually take this site seriously. Yeah, for real!
I think a big cause of my lack of motivation is that I’ve set up this space as a little uncharted island kind of. I rant, I talk about whatever is on my mind, but that’s it. Outside of being a little funny or relatable, I’m not actually connecting with anyone or anything.

I have a tendency to drift into my own world, and it seems that trait of mine bleeds into my work as well. So, realizing that, I’m turning it around. I’m plugging in to my world, and connecting with people and places and things. I’m nouning, I guess is what I just described. I want to create something that people can get something out of, not just me shouting into cyberspace. I mean, I’ll still do that, but I can afford to write with purpose too. People keep telling me I’m cool, but even if that’s true, I’m sick of me being the only thing on here. There are people doing way cooler things, and there’s super interesting stuff happening around my city, and there are great businesses that I frequent, all of which I want you to know about. I want to support them more. I want to collaborate. I want to contribute to the scene around me.

My island needs a monorail line installed to connect to the rest of civilization. So here’s the plan..
Starting next year, I’m going to add a new tab to my blog, titled {Haven’t Decided Yet}, and under that umbrella will be The Inspiration, The Scene, and The Biz. Oh and The Coffeeshops section is going to be updated way more often than I have been doing.

The Inspiration will be a feature of a Philly(usually) artist/musician/mover and shaker who has my attention. There is so much talent in this place, and seeing these individuals pursue their passions always pulls me out of whatever creative rut I’ve fallen into. I hit those pretty often, and I’m realizing that I need to shift my focus onto the things and that get me back on my grind and keep me there. I’m really excited for this section of the site.

The Scene will be posts about the events I go to around Philadelphia. I don’t understand how anyone gets bored here. There is always at least two things going on at any time of the week, and a lot of them are free or super cheap to do. I stay out of the house, attending as many of these things as I can stand. Usually foodie or music-y in nature, but I switch it up sometimes.

The Biz will be my experiences with different local small businesses, whether it be a salon, or a fashion boutique, or a restaurant. Whatever, I’m writing about it if I like it. Because I try shopping local as much as I can help, and I’d like to shout out great places in town that I like and want to see stick around for a long time.

And I’m going to be more active on the medias. It might kill me a little but I’m going to do it, dammit. You will see me doing things on Twitter. Instagram. I recently joined Tumblr. And I will make a TheSpazmatazz Facebook page. Talk to me sometime. I will respond because I’m totally a social person and I am very forward in the technologies and social meeds and whatnot. Psh. Do I sound like someone going to school for a degree in Emergent Media? I’m working on it, I promise.

I also got my tripod, and will be making videos on Youtube of my rants sometimes too. I’m gonna be all over the place, you guys! Are you ready???
I’m not. But I am looking forward to this, and I want to do it right. So bear(or is it bare? I like bear and I don’t feel like looking it up.) with me as TheSpazmatazz goes dark for the month of December. I’m going to spend this time to bulk up on content to launch in the new year, and set up all of my platforms. If you need me, email me! You’ll find my email under the About page.

Alright, I’ll see you all in 2016! In the meantime, read my older posts and share them with someone who needs to know there are people weirder than them in the world. Byeeeee!