Beyond Black and White with Kendall Allen

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By Kendall Allen

My name is Kendall Allen and I am junior at Union.

I am originally from Cambridge, Mass., and my background is Cherokee Indigenous and African-American. My culture has played a role in my growth transforming me to be someone who sees the world, particularly America, in a unique way. Since both of my cultural backgrounds have a long history of being discriminated against in this country (slavery and the Indian Removal Act), this has affected how I view American politics and holidays. For example, although the idea behind Thanksgiving is noble, this holiday isn’t necessarily a happy occasion for my family.

In terms of being “Native American”—I prefer the term “Cherokee Indigenous” because it is more direct to what I am, I haven’t really experienced racism within my culture, because so many of us are mixed with other races and a lot of our cultural practices, specifically language, have been forgotten or assimilated into American culture. It’s hard to be racist within that community, when everyone is on the same playing field.

Being part African-American, on the other hand, it is a lot easier to see the discrimination that we do to one another. First of all, there’s the issue of “light-skinned” blacks versus “dark-skinned” blacks. Second, there’s “good hair” versus “bad hair.” And finally the idea that someone isn’t “black enough.” Since I’m closer to the “light-skinned” side of the spectrum and my hair texture shows that I’m mixed with being Cherokee Indigenous, people within my community have always given me a hard time about that. Similarly, if you’re educated and you speak well, then you’re considered to not be “black enough,” which is ridiculous and contradictory to the promotion of African-American advancement.

There are people that use whitening creams in my culture, and I think that’s very sad. I feel like there is beauty in every shade and our differences are what make us beautiful. It really hurts me to know that there are beautiful individuals in the world that feel the need to look white to feel beautiful. Historically, it’s crushing to see what events in the world’s past have lead us to where we are today.

I feel that at Union the intra-race issues are on a more personal level than a “race” issue within the community.

For example, if two African-Americans don’t like each other here, I feel it’s because they just don’t get along, rather than the other person isn’t “black enough.”

What I do find interesting though, is that there is a divide between the Black populations at Union based on ethnicity. For example: African-Americans versus Africans in America.

It does make sense, because there are cultural differences, but at the same time, it is interesting because when people look at us, the first thing they see is our skin color, and not our culture.

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