I went to a small liberal arts college. It was really expensive and a lot of rich kids went there.
For a kid like me who grew up in a deeply immigrant section of upper Manhattan, I didn’t understand this dynamic. These college years were a challenge to my Korean identity as much as growing up in my densely Puerto Rican and Dominican neighborhood. No surprise how naive and impressionable I was.
The work to create a healthy self-image in these caustic environments is neverending. As Fanon explains in his brilliant Black Skin, White Masks, the black man, in white society, is placed in a situation where he must work to “overcome his feeling of insignificance, to rid his life of the compulsive quality that makes it so like the behavior of the phobic.” Furthermore, as society sets up obstacles and barriers he may express an “unconscious desire to change color” but the focus must be on addressing the source of the conflict: the social structures.
…the black man should no longer be confronted by the dilemma, turn white or disappear; but he should be able to take cognizance of a possibility of existence.
He knows what I would like to know:
How a white man came to paint beauty
Into a black man’s face,
& why he left sharks slashing the water below his feet?
–– excerpted from “The Gulf Stream/Four Studies
IV. Self Portrait/Vision” by Terrance Hayes