by Helene Swanson

I posted this the other day and was deeply moved by the responses.  One friend said they thought it was the best thing I every wrote, asked that I share it with a wider audience. Click here to see the  original post

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend and colleague in which she asked out my use of referring to myself as coloured. I have always referred to myself as coloured. My mother was English/Irish and my father was Trinidadian. While my mother was white my father was multi-racial as many are from the West Indies. I have experienced both racism and reverse racism most of my life. Whites shun me after learning about my father as if I have betrayed them for appearing “passe du blanc” (pass for white) and Blacks often tell me that I as “white bread” I am priviledged.

But if you think that I don”t know the pain from both worlds my grandfather did not allow my mother to bring my oldest sister home because she came out with my fathers colouring and my father was thrown in the brig when he joined the American army for hitting a superior officer for being called a “nigger”. And when I was six my mother and father agreed to divorce because in racist America we had to choose which world we survived in better and that as Whites we stood a chance of getting ahead – but were forced to leave behind my father. So never got to know him growing up and not a day has gone by that I don’t think about him. And wonder whatever be came of him.

So please folks when you look at ME stop seeing my colour and see a person NOT a woman, see a PERSON who is fighting to end racism, sexism and classism. Stop judging me on the little you know about me. Stop telling me how to speak. I speak proper English and Ebonics. I grew up in Harlem, NYC in the 1960’s. I grew up in abject poverty. I saw my first victim of a shooting at 4. My friends suffered from rat bites living in the ghetto. I am not walking to become a celebrity fame does nothing for me. I don’t like being out front because I have always survived in the shadows.

And although i was told by my Spiritual Director that my sexual preferences or identity should never be anyones business – well you probably will be surprised there too. Just cause I was happily married don’t mean I am what you might think. I moved to San Francisco 30 years ago, and all I can say is “do the math”.

Some say I “married well” I say I married for love. which speaks to classism. And those who have gone on to college and university know all about how being in the right sorority or being a legacy helps. But I know lots of brilliant folks who never went to college and put two and two together better than other folks with all kinds of letters behind their names. But I have found suffering in both groups and the grass is always greener cause folks aren’t happy with themselves especially when we live in a world that promotes hatred and greed.

We all know ones background affects ones ability to get the “right” job, and how ones race puts you into a certain bracket, and that no matter how hard you work or how many degrees you get as woman you are just not going to get paid what you are worth.

So I cry when I see what is going on because I can hide behind my white skin colour, my education gives me an edge, and I got a great surname.

So I am walking across America because I want to see ALL that change.

So if you want to know about me just know that I am what I am.

That is… a person who loves God, loves my country, and loves my family an am dedicated to moving this country forward so no one has to live in the shadows that I have.


A little on my family in Trinidad…

“This family presents an essentially different picture from the somewhat stereotype view of the 19th century French Creoles of Trinidad, in that they were Protestant – not Catholic. They were also Republicans, not Royalists in their outlook, and for five generations did not marry into the main matrix of the French Creole extended families. Another difference was that for generations, they acknowledged and supported their coloured illegitimate offspring.”

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