As entrepreneurs we are called to make sacrifices, concessions and down right acrobatics to reach our goals. One of the sacrifices I chose to make have, at times, affected my family life, my sleep and my friendships. On more sombre occasions, they’ve hurt the very core of who I am. A Black, adopted woman of color. This is my mea culpa.
Bare with me, or don’t. I needed to say this.
GROWING UP ADOPTED
I was adopted from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as a baby and grew up between Québec and Ontario in a multicultural but mostly white family.
There are role models a child looks to during their formative years, and while I appreciate everyone who chose to take on those roles, none of them were Black.
What this created was a comfortable yet scary environment, one where I never fully knew how to operate, express myself and defend my blackness.
I say comfortable because of the stability of my household and the well balanced life I was given, but scary because of the lack of intrinsic motivation to wholly understand the trials and tribulations that a black child could face in predominantly white settings.
I regret no parts of my youth and chose to celebrate each experience I encountered as they continue to be invaluable lessons to me.
That being said, I understand now, how the 6 year old Gabrièle (yes, that was the first time I recall facing outright racism in it’s purest form) became the 26 year old Gabbie that is SO uncomfortable with her behavior that she feels the need to pen a full mea culpa at 12:41 in the morning.
TOLERANT, PASSIVE, HIDDEN
I was 6 years old when I was first called a stinky nigger by a little girl on the playground. For weeks, rumors that my skin was brown because I bathed in shit had gone around the class. I felt pain, humiliation and frustration.
My white mother taught me to love my skin, my hair, my nose, my forehead…
How other children could choose to ostracize me because of those same traits was as unnerving as it was confusing to me.
I wished I had had more friends during that time. A part of me wished I could crawl out of my skin, leave it at home to be more palatable to these young ladies, meanwhile, another part of me was furious, enraged even at the sheer audacity displayed.
I told teachers, my parents and the playground educators. I didn’t actually even know what nigger meant at the time so I don’t know how I explained what was said or how it affected me.
I do, however, recall being offered an apology from some of the students. I also recall being asked to forgive them and move on, which I did tried to do, they did not.
Don’t touch me nigger
You are dirty because you are black
Don’t get you poopy skin on me
Became recurrent themes of the ire I faced.
I would cry, scream, argue, leave, get apologized to and move on.
I can’t confirm how many times this manege went round but I can say that I eventually chose to simply tolerate the behavior, hate myself & my skin, my hair, my person…and move on!
What began then was a pattern of tolerance towards aggressions.
The less I argued, the easier I thought the ride would be.
My mother finally changed my school when I came home one day telling her that looking at the brown skin on my arms made me ‘not feel too proud honestly’.
I carried my brokenness into my next school, into highschool and eventually all the way to Montréal.
I made the decision to simply exist, live my life, build MY business and most importantly be tolerant, passive and hidden.
Tolerant of micro agressions if they weren’t directly aimed at my person.
Passive in my defense of my person as to not offend clients or business partners using ignorant language.
I also hid my adoption for many years to make sure I never got the most painful comment of all: oh! Great well that explains why you are so well spoken!
These practices made my existence in an oppressive society bearable. It made my existence within myself quietly intolerable.
As I type these words I realize that I am the first person I wish to apologize to.
I apologize to the little girl within me for tolerating racism.
I apologize to the teenager self for tolerating microaggressions and instances of disrespect.
I apologize to my ancestors for not being more vocal towards the systemic racism that me and my people have continued to feel for the past 400 years.
I type this is an absolute state of brokenness by my behavior. I am SORRY.
How to’s on how to move forward in the future
Tokenism is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or sexual equality within a workforce. Wikipedia
How does this apply to my brand:
I demand that you, as my clients, refrain from using our glam sessions as proof of your racial tolerance and openness.
When issues of obvious racism and/or racial discrimination arise, I will no longer tolerate comments that aim to blame the victim(s). I will also not welcome ‘All lives matter’ speech or other similar narratives. This is both for my personal and professional worlds.
I am gorgeous…not for a black girl, even though you usually don’t think we are pretty, not for a Haitan (an by the way I am from Saint-Vincent)
Touching my afro
I am not justifying my right to personal space now or ever. Thank you.
They aren’t funny or acceptable
Even though you think you ‘didn’t mean it that way’
No more apologizing and compromising for my blackness, my womanhood, my art. No more shrinking to fit into spaces I have so fiercely outgrown.
I have been a fraud, but I am no more bound to self imposed reductive standards.
I am free and ready to represent Black Excellence to the fullest of my abilities.
Because I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams.
Because I, as a full black child, matter.