This post is part of a year-long series. If my work is helpful for you, consider a contribution through Venmo to support this crucial work of unlearning racial bias.
If you didn’t read my intro post, please go back and do so before moving forward with this one. It’s vital that you take the time to answer the basic question of why are you here. Truly, if you don’t have a clear sense of purpose, then attempts to understand someone else’s perspective will do nothing but cloud your own.
A little background about me and why I’ve decided to write this series: I was born, raised, and educated in predominantly black areas of Dallas. I have experienced continual waves of culture shock after moving to East Texas to attend college and subsequently settling here. I believe the combination of my upbringing juxtaposed with the environment in which I am bringing up my own kids, along with my career as a teacher and knack for writing, have positioned me in a unique place to offer insight into vastly differing perceptions of the country we live in.
That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m doing this.
I want to introduce you to Pecola Breedlove.
I first met Pecola, The Bluest Eye’s haunting protagonist, when I was an identity-conflicted teenager. I related to her instantly – not because she was sexually assaulted or because she longed for the white standards of beauty that weighed her down. I didn’t share either of those experiences from my own personal life. Rather, I related to Pecola Breedlove because she struggles to withstand the cacophony of voices insistent on forcing their desires for her into her heart and mind. Pecola copes in the way she can: by accepting the soul-sucking idea that who she is, is ugly and inadequate. This beautiful fictional child crumbles under the weight of the exalted “beauty” of American whiteness, and suffers devastating ramifications once she resolves to accept the idea of her own ugliness.
This week’s suggested resource is literary giant Toni Morrison’s debut novel The Bluest Eye. Allow Pecola Breedlove to be your first teacher as you begin unlearning what you may have been taught both implicitly and explicitly. She will draw you in with her doe-eyed pre-adolescent innocence. She will capture your heart with her meek acceptance that she isn’t beautiful enough to merit being treated with kindness. And she will likely devastate you when you realize that although she is universally relatable, she is uniquely and definitely black, American, and female: tasked with deftly navigating a society that neither sees her nor wants her to exist as she is.
I will end on a reflective note for you to mull over until I post next week: Now that you have uncovered the tip of the systemic injustice iceberg and are fired up to dosomethingsaysomethingreadsomething, who are you centering as you learn? Are you centering yourself in order to satisfy your own need to feel you are helping move our society forward toward peace? Are you centering white faith leaders whom you follow and are now calling you to action? Are you centering your own white children because you don’t want to have tough conversations with them?
I encourage you to reflect quietly on each question. Let each one wash over you, particularly if your first response is to wonder why I must specify “white” or to defend your answers.
Together, we can work toward peace, one piece at a time.