University of Southern Indiana

The Colorful Truth

illustration of hand and eye

By Ta’Meia Burleigh '21

When you look at me, what do you see?
They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,”
but we all know that’s not really true because
like it or not you are being judged no matter what you do
how you look, dress, or if you “act a little strange,”
but how you look should never dictate how you’re treated,
that’s something that’s got to change.
So, when you look at me, what do you see?
Is it... the curls in my fro? My own culturally crafted pillow?
Or is it... my cheesy, cheeky smile, a contrast to my caramelized exterior?
See, when I look in the mirror and I see my fro,
I think of years of Black Suppression that can’t fit through a comb!
I see curls of little brown girls!
Except... their curls aren’t curls, just a flat ironed tress.
They see our women on TVs, magazines, and the press
with long, shiny, silky, straight hair. America’s idea of the best.
So instead of rocking the boat and making a mess,
our little brown girls are going to school
with burnt out, straight hair, not knowing it’s their hair that’s what’s cool—
their afro-textured hair, the authenticity!
Their kinks, coils, curls, and ringlets are remnants of our Black ethnicity.
So, when you look at me, what do you see?
I see the Colorful Truth.

One of the colors I see is red!
Red is the heat that burned underneath
as our ancestors slaved but still stood on two feet.
It’s the blood that they bled, being whipped and beaten,
the sun beating drums on their backs, picking cotton to their packs,
from going days without eating!
American history portrays blackness as weakness, oh but we’re truly divine
from our melanin muse to our cocoa butter spines,
our brown sugar is the perfect concoction
because we are priority, first-class, not the world’s second-option.
So, when you look at me, what do you see?
Because I see the Colorful Truth.

You know a color that I hear? Like all the time?
I sit there in grief and utter disbelief
at that same six words that I have always received
since I was a little girl. Tell me if you’ve gotten this one before.
It goes like this: “You’re pretty for a black girl!”
Excuse me?! Have you brown skinned ladies heard this before?
As though the hue of our skin represents the beauty in our core?
As if the measure of being pretty is dependent upon a standard
“Be Pretty or Be Black”
but apparently, we can’t be both?!
This pseudo-compliment conundrum is sickening and what’s worst is that
it is 2019, with not a change to be seen!
Dr. King is shaking in his grave still dreaming his dream
for the day we come together as one, UNITED.
Not blacks and whites, but a community UNDIVIDED.

For the day that we can walk without being questioned or stalked.
I fear the day my mother lets my brother leave home
and a cop shows up at her door and tells her that he’s gone
because my brother is a black man against the criminal justice system of America
where being black and wearing a hoodie will get you shot, unleash hysteria
and all of this has got to stop, don’t we all see there needs to be change?
Where brown skinned girls can rock their curls
and the world recognizes slavery as one of America’s greatest shames?!
Where I can go about my day, without being attacked
For not only being Beauty and Brains
But for being Beauty, Brains, AND BLACK.

There are three As to the elements of change: Awareness, Acceptance, and Action.
James Baldwin, American novelist and civil rights activist once said,
“Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
What does this mean?
Ignorance is not bliss.
Lack of knowledge doesn’t make it less true.
Become aware of history so history won’t define you.
Awareness leads to acceptance.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive,”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that. He also said,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness.”
So, we all need to forgive and accept.
And after you become aware and choose to educate,
then accept the truth for what it is and let that resonate.
The final element to change is action.
Don’t we all remember there once was a time where blacks were segregated?
From buses to bathrooms and rooms of education.
Oh, but now there’s liberation!
We have the power to learn!
So why is it that according to statistics,
the national college student drop-out rate for African Americans
sits at 42 percent? 42 percent.
Step up and stand out.

Ta’Meia Burleigh ’21, biology, wrote The Colorful Truth for people to appreciate the beauty of individuality, yet still recognize and understand the similarities within the colors of our skins.

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