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An Open Letter to Those Afflicted with Internalized Racism

Hey, there.

Yes, you.

A lot of us POC right now are “woke,” which means you understand just how the odds are stacked against you. How much harder life can be, in ways large and small. How necessary and imperative and right it is to love the skin you’re in, regardless of what the world wants you to believe– that you are a danger, a curse, a threat. That all your life, people have wanted you to believe that you are Lesser Than, when in reality you are anything but.

But, if you’re anything like me, you weren’t always this way. You weren’t always in love with your culture, or with the people who you were supposed to feel this undeniable bond with. Maybe you felt out of place, somehow, and retaliated with hatred or disgust, or even apathy. Maybe you dreamed about looking like all those golden Hollywood stars, with their shiny blonde hair and blue eyes and fair skin. Maybe you just didn’t understand why people acted so differently with you than they did with others, and you internalized that reaction and used it as a weapon against your own kind– just in hopes that somehow, in some way, you would one day belong.

That’s what the first years of my life were like. I would look at my brown skin, my dark brown eyes, my untamed hair, and wonder why I wasn’t “normal”. My friends were white, with fancy apartments and doormen holding every door wide open for them, both literally and figuratively. And in my haste to “join” those ranks, still believing that I could do so, began trying to mold myself in an image I could never attain. I began to reject the very culture and upbringing that I had flourished in, that had nourished me in my youth, for what I thought was the Greater Good.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Soon enough, though, I couldn’t deny what was right in front of my face. I would always be the onlooker, looking in on the Privilege Party without even being able to get my foot in the door. And, as I soon realized, I no longer wanted to. My culture, my creed, my family and community– that was mine, and always would be. My brown skin, my curves, my “Otherness” — they were all mine, and they were more than anything I could have imagined. It was such a revelation, such a relief to know that being a person of color wasn’t just something I had to accept– but something I should be proud of. Never had I considered the fact that my skin was a blessing.

I wasn’t white, and that wasn’t just okay– it was a beauty all its own.

Some of us haven’t reached this point yet, and I’m telling you here and now: snap out of it. Nothing good can come of you trying to pretend you’re “too good” for your race or ethnicity. That kind of arrogance is misplaced, is directed against the very kind of acceptance you crave, deep down. It is waiting for you. You already know where to find it. You aren’t white, and that’s beautiful. This is an undeniable truth, whether you believe it or not.
But for your sake, I hope one day you do.

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