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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Social Justice Today (and This Week)

Trayvon and his father
In the past two weeks I have had two sets of parents come talk to me about race and how it impacts their young children. One is the mother to an adopted son from Africa who had to watch her little preschooler come home and try to scrub his blackness off because he was told he was dirty and wasn’t allowed to play with the other kids at school. Anther, the father of a young girl, who had to deal with his daughter coming home crying and saying “I want blue eyes.” In addition was also a major event (The murder of Trayvon, a 17 year old boy) that made many people rethink the race situation in America.

The mom with the preschooler is now dreading telling her son that just because he looks a certain way, he will need to be careful in certain neighborhoods, he will not be able to wear certain colors or certain clothes. Even if he is on the honor roll and gets into a good school, people will assume it was affirmative action because he couldn’t possibly do it on his own.

The father with the girl gets to explain to his daughter that she is beautiful even though everyone she studies in school, everyone she is surrounded by, models she sees, and the majority of people in power do not have the same skin tone, eye color, or hair texture as she does. She will need to learn to love her own beauty in a world that does not call her beautiful but rather exotic or ethnic.

I am reminded of a story I was told about two police officers sitting in a bar across from one of my friends talking about profiling Native Americans just for fun.

I am reminded of the time(s) I have been profiled, followed through stores, or stereotyped simply because of the color of my skin. I am reminded of family members murdered because of their race (and their successes in a white neighborhood) and I am reminded of violence toward myself and my friends because of my dark skin.  I have been told what it is like to be black in America by many white folks and I am here to tell you what it is really like.

People ask why I chose to use nooses in my artwork.  This is why.  People need to see that, though better, things are still a mess. We are not beyond racism. Racism is learned and we have not adequately taught our preschoolers to accept others. We, ourselves, have not learned to fully accept others. We have not acknowledged these problems, nor have we decided to actively fight against them. 

The nooses not only force us to think about racism in its present day form, but allow us to remember those who have been murdered because of their race or other forms of prejudice and hate such as sexuality, or gender, even modern day slavery.  We are still fighting this battle...

Some helpful links

Black is Beautiful Pin Board - This is an excellent way to help focus on images of people that look like you.  Also turn off the television

Tips to help your child see themselves as beautiful even when people at school do not

My Black is Beautiful - Celebrating African American women

More of my Artwork

Body Image
Native American
Human Trafficking


My blog and website have moved. Be sure to check out www.Feliciafollum.com