When to ‘Check’ or ‘Educate’ Non-Black Folks Who Just Don’t Know (There’s a Difference)

*An article I ran across spoke of an African American woman who was visiting Italy with her husband. The sista wore her beautiful long hair natural and it was very eye-catching — especially to an elderly, white couple. The women’s eyes met and the Italian woman touched her own hair, walked towards  the sista…

…and this happened.

…when it posted online,  Black folks went ballistic!

Cy Andrews, the sista in the photo, posted the pic two years ago; but it got such negative feedback, she took the picture down.

But recently, she put it up again. If only to set the record straight!

As the internet goes, the photo had been shared — but without the backstory that Andrews had originally posted.

Andrew spoke with Yahoo Beauty  as she reflected back on that day.

“I can’t recall who spotted who first, but there was a group of two elderly couples, they looked over at us and smiled,” she says. “Then, one of the women walked towards me in what I think was amazement — just big eyes. She touched her own hair while looking at mine and said, ‘Bellissima‘ [meaning “gorgeous” in English], and came closer, looking me in the eye as if she was checking to make sure it was OK. I smiled right back, and funny enough, I don’t recall what other words that were exchanged, if any.”

Once the couple began to touch Andrew’s hair, the photos of them all were taken, capturing the moment.

It was the negativity from the original post that made Andrew decide to re-post the photos on Instagram to clarify the true intent of the gesture they presented and her feelings behind it.

“This lovely couple’s only fault is that they were unaware that their gesture is one that stirs up so many real and justified feelings of objectivity, judgment and dehumanization for many black women,” a portion of her caption read. “But I think here is where intent is important, and this is where we have to be careful about who we condemn. We can continue to educate our non-black friends why this gesture carries more weight than they realize, but we should be careful not to vilify people so quickly. We should reserve that energy for those who are much more deserving of it — there’s quite a few of them out there showing their faces.” Read the entire post here.

The story strikes a chord with me and I am in total agreement with Cy Andrew. Knowing when to confront someone’s thoughtless gesture because it is called for vs. knowing when someone is genuinely interested in learning takes not only a developed wisdom, but compassion.

It’s how we teach. It’s how they learn. And that falls on both sides of the race spectrum. Not just whites but Black folk too. 

Why do we believe they should already be know?

…and how’s that working out for us? For them?

 

 

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