Now, I lived in Britain for about a year or so but had never heard of this British actor till this year. And he’s been acting for a VERY long time. Granted I had already stopped watching fiction, so we only watched shows with the presenters making small homes (The Uk has many of those!) look fab, or they’d go into people’s attics and find collector’s items that the owners didn’t know were worth a lot! It was cool. It was different! ANYWAY…
I recommended his book in one of my South African adoption groups. There was a time years ago when we were ferocious about educating each other about how Black children being raised by White IGNORANT parents is a recipe for disaster. A White mom regularly posted about micro-aggressions, about how race was inextricably tied with poverty and low status jobs… We were friends for a while because of her blog, in which her little one, while they drove home one day, commented on the fact that when she’d become an adult, she wouldn’t have a car.
Because all the people that she saw in their neighborhood who looked like her..all the Black women in the neighborhood were domestic workers aka maids. They were always on foot, off to catch public transport. This White mom had never realized this in this way… And how sad. “I’m Brown. All the Brown adults I see walk. So, when I leave home, I too will walk.”
That drove my friend to actively seek out Black friends of all statuses. She wanted her girl to know that her race did NOT define her future. Or rather, her race did not determine and limit her future (as much as she thought it did.)
She disappeared. She always knew it was the job of White people to educate White so as to limit the way the inevitable pushback and white tears caused by white fragility would further hurt us Blacks. But the pushback was too much. Black adoptees were silenced for spending their lives experiences. It’s uncomfortable for many adoptive parents to ever think that in their “doing good,” they are also ALSO “doing harm” in how they did their good. Ignoring that your child is Black in a world where Black is inferior, lazy, criminal (especially when male) tells your child you don’t see them, you only see your version of the child you’d thought you’d give birth to but couldn’t. The Black adoptee becomes a replacement of the White biological child.
Impossible. And the Black child loses because the world doesn’t see what the parents ‘see.‘
Very uncomfortable truth. So, the anger got rid of the vocal adoptees and it’s now full of happy family photos (Extremely jarring to me especially given my friend who committed suicide so I rarely enter) and full of newbie questions about getting new birth certificates.
That’s not enough. Not for innocent children.
So, after I read Harewood’s book yesterday, I had to post about it. See, I, too was the assimilated little girl. I, too, didn’t realise I actually didn’t ‘belong’ until someone rudely and harshly made it clear me that not only did I not belong, but I was stupid for thinking that the privileges those I was assimilated to, could ever be mine. I was not as good as they were. Not as deserving. And my parents were Black! Imagine how much more jarring it is when you’re even MORE ‘White’ than I thought I was.
It’s horrendous. I can’t describe it as wonderfully as Harewood does, so I won’t.
But I will say that it has not improved, the situation has not changed. Which is why I shared this British man’s experience in our South African frouo. My husband can be jogging with others also jogging. Only HE will be followed and chased by private security vehicles or the police.
I warned those parents that that’s their teen son, their future adult son. They need to find the book and help their child, support before they child falls down the rabbit hole of shock and betrayal, before they too lose their mind and have to regain it like Harewood had to.
He made me cry. Where do you belong when you’re also not Black enough according to some Blacks?
In the same way he carved his own identity, so did I. And of course, I know now. I am Black. (Yes, some teachers did remind me, but it was about my hair. I didn’t realise I was not only cursed with the wrong hair, but with the wrong skin too.)
He met a lot of people on the street after his BBC documentary on his time with psychosis and being institutionalized. People of all races, people who wept with him as they thanked him for sharing his experience.
And that is why I want to meet David Harewood, to thank him for sharing his experience. It took me two weeks to open the book. I didn’t want to know. I’m Black! I already know any book about Blackness will hurt! But it kept calling me and I answered.
I have a friend from church who also was institutionalized after she went through her own psychosis. I remember being terrified that she’d not come back to herself. Harewood mentions his hospital records talking about him being incontinent. She too was. It was scary! For someone so in control of herself to talk nonsense and not even control her bladder with no physiological cause behind it… Would this be this young mother’s life forever? But she came back.
He taught me a lot about psychosis.
But he also strengthened me, and that’s why I want to thank thank him. I’ll never have the wife audience he has and had. I’m thankful that he spoke for me. I’m thankful that he made my voice heard. I’m thankful for the tears I wept, and for the beauty in the book too. Hey, he even came tk act here in our country and was driven around by an Afrikaner.
Read the book if you haven’t. You’ll see me in it. You’ll see your hurting friend in it. Or the friends who helped you up when you were down and you didn’t realise how down they too had gone in their effort to pick YOU up.
Perhaps you’ll see yourself in it.
Whoever you see, I hope you treat them with greater empathy after reading this book.
Thank you, Mr Harewood.