This is my last column for Observant. I tried writing about the current situation in the world, but the image of me yelling “swim” from the shore to a drowning person wouldn’t go away. Although I had my share of drownings, I am confident they never had anything to do with my skin colour. So, to save us all from my incompetence on the matter, I approached my colleague, Dr. Tameka Romeo. Tameka is a strong, unapologetic black woman from Trinidad and Tobago, who last year became a doctor right here at UM.
My message to Tameka might have suggested that I am seeking “what can we do” type of text to which she, as so her-like, replied with a harsh piece titled “What You Will Not Do”. I was instantly nervous to read it, concerned about the amount of collective guilt that will follow me afterwards. And, already from the beginning, I knew that her text will stay with me forever.
She opens with: “Kermit the frog once sang, “It’s not easy being green. Having to spend each day the colour of the leaves. When I think it might be nicer, being red or yellow or gold or something much more colourful like that”. His amphibious musical rendition, an ode to struggles, and insecurities surrounding his value and self-worth, when measured against the alternatives, is a reluctantly accepted truth for people with an abundance of melanin in their skin and meandering hair curl patterns - people like me.”. Tameka then writes: “Many of ‘us’ have intentionally archived, into the most distant corners of our minds, many of the details of our ancestral history for our sake, but also for yours.”. Tameka’s descriptions of the acts done to black people with the question if all of that was not enough made my heart sink and caused me such discomfort as I couldn’t stop thinking how being uncomfortable while reading such a piece could never even slightly compare with the discomfort of actually living through such violent acts. In her text, Tameka also firmly stands ground and points out to all the blurred lines that were crossed, but are not to be crossed anymore.
I admit, one thing that surprised me was the blunt and consistent “you” and “us” expression without the call for a dialog. But is the horrific past suitable for a dialog? What could be possibly said? Even Dutchies, with their collective shame don’t dare talking about the matter, although the silence leaves their kids unprepared for responsibility they will have to accept. That we all must accept, regardless of our “involvement”.
The moment my stomach could start digesting the wheel of emotions I was going through, the final lines simply broke my heart. Tameka closes this piece with: “I cannot confidently forecast if the recent global and unified outcry for the cessation of racial injustice is sufficient to beckon a brighter dawn for humanity. Although, I will say with the utmost of authority - and I am sure that you will agree - that while being green may not be easy, it pales in comparison to being black.”.
Full text of Tameka Romeo “What You Will Not Do” is available here.
Irena Boskovic, PhD, Assistant professor of forensic psychology at Erasmus University Rotterdam