One of the most hilarious questions I was ever asked by a student was: “Brother Amouzou, did you, like, come out of the womb with your fist up ready to fight the power?” The reason I laughed at this question is because sometimes the journey is so invisible to the naked eye. It’s hard to see the multiple wounds and bruises that had to be healed to present this slightly more complete and less dysfunctional self.
I love the Frank Warren quote, “The children almost broken by the world become the adults most likely to change it [if given a chance to heal their internalized oppression].” In a world dominated by white supremacy, the ways in which we are racialized by seemingly invisible systems and structures are hidden. I think we find the answers whenever we reflect on the microscopic crevices of our broken hearts, lacerated minds, and lost memories.
This is one of those reflections.
**The three instagram images below are from a brilliant artist “attempting to creatively/non-violently process the frustrating act of moving through the world as a black person in the 21st century”. Follow her on Instagram @The_Neocolonial_Afronation
The first real moment of f***ed-up internalized hatred of my people was somewhere between the tumbling ages of 5 and 7. I forgot her name but it was something beautiful … Sandra? My Togolese heart was smitten. I have few to no real memories of her character, personality or background except one. Her skin was a fair cafe tint. Its glow eliminated any of the darker skinned ladies of the playground. She was symbolic of forbidden love. A Frenchman mixing with a local. Love and colonial violence. I wonder who taught me that at such a young age.
It was the last day of school. We were all screaming and running around in our high-waisted khaki shorts and lavender school shirts. #ColonialChic. It was me, 2-3 boys or girls, and her. Memories from the primary days are selective. The final bell rang. In a frenzied sort of orgy, we all jumped and laid on top of each other, perfectly stacked. I was on the bottom, faced down in sand and gravel burnt by the midday sun. She lay on top of me, chest pressed against my back with two more on top of her. I could no longer tell whether the pressure came from—my aroused state or gravity. No this isn’t pubescent softcore porn appealing to your pedophilic complexes. I was like 5 or 6, so aroused just meant quick heartbeats and adrenaline flooding my body.
Do you remember being 5 or 6? Staring at a crush for eight hours? Wondering how to get them to your sandbox? Imagining incomprehensible play dates where you meet the parents with boxes of fruit juice as a house gift? Wondering what your kids would look like? Or where in the hell they would precipitate from? If you’ve never loved like a 5 year old then you’ve never loved fully. It’s amazing the few memories we remember from our childhood. Why did I love the most light-skinned girl in my class whose name I can’t remember? What media was I exposed to? Most cartoons that aired in West Africa were made and produced for Western audiences and consumed blindly by us. The violence of never seeing a protagonist that looked like me in shows like L’éécole des champions, must have added up.
Most, if not all, of Disney was white except for…Jafar? In the Lion King, we were all…animals.
The Adventures of Tintin were straight-up racist.
And never mind, the Jungle Tales of Tarzan and his encounters with Africans and their “bestial brutishness”.
Now, when I think back, it’s a sort of poignant image. The four of us stacked like branches on that last day of school with my face burnt by the baking gravel is one of the most salient etched into my memory banks. It reminds me that we aren’t born inferior. Inferiority is pressurized into our system by the gravity of our white supremacist colonial structures. If some of us are born loving ourselves then the rest of us must be born resisting.
Even though, I was surrounded by my native culture and a love of self and family, there were some facts of life that were irresistible. Their presence, silent, slowly chipping away, waiting to be revealed years later in the harshness of the American melting pot.
To heal through storytelling, I’m writing a book that wrestles with the realities of living in such a violent and colonized world titled Loving Is For Everyone. Follow this Instagram handle, @Wisdom_Writes, for excerpts such as these from the working manuscript.
Title Photo: Getty Images