Funny how racist actions can clarify one’s rhetoric in a (lost) heartbeat.

I have joked in a previous blog about how comforting it is to be a member of the Tribe of the Universal Beige. After visiting 5 of the 7 continents, I can honestly report that while I may have felt a bit culturally unsettled in certain places, I can almost always blend in in one way or another. My complexion and my hair texture do not immediately register as Black in other parts of the world, which gives me a chance to slip past people’s inherent biases and rewrite social codes and political orders. Or, at the very least, become a conversation starter. Hopefully, to a positive end.

But this week, there were two painful examples of how even The Universal Beige is a stimulus for persistent racist behaviors, here in America and abroad. An assassin, with the impossibly soap opera-like name of Dylann Storm Roof, sat in an historic AME Church in Charleston and proceeded to take the life of nine people gathered for bible study. Roof, a 9th grade dropout, with a misguided manifesto about the browning of America and how he had to do something to stop it. Had to do something, in a church of a denomination that was started by well-to-do Blacks who couldn’t suffer being mistreated and oppressed even as they sought to worship their God. The textbook definition of uppity Negroes. Many of mixed racial heritage, as on both sides of my family. I doubt even Dylann Roof fully understood the deep symbology of choosing that church, that space, let alone the history of rebellion and uprising in that specific congregation. He just wanted to shoot some Black folks and spread fear.

And when even church isn’t a safe sanctuary, surely a place where you have lived, worked, raised a family for generations should provide refuge. Forget post-slavery America. I meant the Dominican Republic. And yet, a Commonwealth Court ruling now threatens to send Dominican people of Haitian descent back across the border for the crime of being too Black to easily deny their ancestral heritage. As if they want to. And, well…being Black-skinned isn’t good for the Dominican world image. My Beige would likely be welcomed, my Dominicanness unquestioned, and I would be spared the indignity of being rounded up and bused back to a country where I have no real roots. The complexion that has been my global equalizer has been hung out to dry as yet another tool of oppression in a place where I have traceable roots. Intra-racism. Disgusting, and now a disassociative wedge for the family history I want so badly to trace.

If another Civil War were to break out in these supposedly United States, it hurts my heart that there is truly no country to which I could comfortably repatriate and maintain some sense of ancestral allegiance. DR is deporting folks. Nigeria is kidnapping and selling off women and children. Cuba may welcome the commerce, but they aren’t rushing to open their borders to a new wave of American immigrants just yet. And Brazil? Their colorist corruption is legendary.

No good options. So if I’ve got to suck it up and engage in some kind of distasteful activity to protect myself and make my way in the world, I guess I’d better buy a gun and get myself to a shooting range to practice. Universal Beige or not…educated and employed…the sights aimed at me and mine seem to have grown much more defined lately. But I shall not be moved, just because my melanin makes you uncomfortable. My roots may trace back to Africa, but the branches of my tree have brought their shade to America.

A broad spectrum of beautiful shades.

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