“Achievement has no color”
― Abraham Lincoln
Sometimes I feel that I will burst if I hear once again first and black in the same sentence. I have nothing against being first or excelling or being supreme in a chosen field or in a competition or even in a queue, but when I hear the words first and black, my spirit sighs and it’s as if I want to die. I know this sounds so exaggerated, and I don’t wish to degrade the achievements of those who have reached the pinnacle through sheer hard work, devotion to a cause, or mastered their craft.
Why is it that in the 21st century, when we have come so far, in terms of addressing racism, colour prejudice and the way we treat others in terms of the colour of their skin, speaking boldly about equality, diversity, inclusion and acceptance of other’s culture, mixing pots, melting pots, you name it – there’s a term which embraces it, yet still the races are not equal, such a pity that our ethnicity has shown that we haven’t grown and how much further we still need to go. It is woeful, that we are hearing about the first black president, the first black film director, the first black model on the cover of Vogue UK. It’s neither wonderful or amazing in my book. Yes of course the achievements are – of that there is no doubt. But ought we still to be referring to skin colour when praise is due? Is it some sort of an extraordinary feat to be both black and an achiever? Are those terms mutually exclusive, so when it coincides – ought we to be doubly impressed?
How can we as a race in present times, allow for such archaic language to seep into our consciousness? When Barack Obama became president of the United States of America, was it necessary for us to be enlightened and educated about the hue of his skin? And Steve McQueen of ’12 Years a Slave’ fame, when he became the happy recipient of an Academy Award for Best Picture, did it enhance the view to know that he was black? Would that have escaped our notice somehow, imagining that all the audience were in some way colour blind on that auspicious night? My heart sinks when I think that Donyale Luna a black model who covered in Vogue UK was the first to do so. But I was heartened when I heard the editor of Vogue UK (Alexandra Shulman) talking on the radio about this and I smiled when the presenter commented on her [Luna] being the first black model to do so, to which the editor responded “could we drop the ‘first black’ please?” A woman after my own heart!
~ Marie Williams 2017