Alysia Nicole Harris is a 28-year-old Writer and Spoken Word artist born in the United States of America. In this interview she shares her experiences as what people describe a “racially ambiguous” woman, how she came to the realization of it and how it affects her daily life.
As stated in the title, Harris has and always will consider herself a black woman.
It was people on the streets who constantly wanted another answer when asked about her ethnic descent. She states, ” I am light skin and I have really long natural hair and when people kept asking me,
“What are you, what are you,” I came to the realization that those were two traits people never associated with black women, especially the long hair part. I think it also stemmed from people not knowing that there are different types of black women, that they come in different shades of skin color and hair textures.” According to Harris, the cluelessness about all the shades in which black women exist probably comes from the history of slavery. From being owned and color-ism being a tactic in which slave masters ranked their slaves within their population.
Being racially ambiguous often leaves people feeling like they don’t have a land to claim.
They can’t identify themselves anywhere because they are far too mixed. In Harris’s experience, she was often left feeling like she wasn’t black enough to claim her blackness by other people of color. Even though she wants to. Then again, it’s obvious she is not white either.
“I remember in 5th grade, the boys kept pulling my hair and calling me ‘hair weave’ and I was like why are they calling my hair head weave? That’s my natural hair. It really used to bother me, until I realized that black women can’t win anyways. You get made fun of if you have short kinky hair and you get made fun of if you have hair that’s apparently is too long to be black. When I got older and started getting attention from people from different races, especially white men. They would ask about my nationality and race. I was just always so confused about why black couldn’t be a valid answer why they couldn’t see it, but I have come to realize that a lot of white men and people in general have been trained to not see black women as attractive, which means if they found me beautiful there was no way I could be just black. I had to be mixed with something else. That was the most striking thing, being in conversation with men and they list every single possible ethnic identity I could have but black. “
According to Harris, people miss out on a lot simply because they refuse to see beyond a beauty standard. They limit their possibilities and opportunities too. When you take the example of Hollywood, people would rather give great roles to women who fit the standard of beauty. They don’t give actresses their roles on their ability to act or their natural talents, but more so based on what they look like. “People create binaries, to not see beauty in darkness so when they come across women who are ambiguously black they don’t want to categorize her as black. It is very frustrating to not be able to claim my blackness among other people. Because I have never felt like anything else. I know my experiences are not the same as darker women, but it still doesn’t mean that I am less black. Or that I don’t feel threatened when people who do not know me on the streets just touch my hair without permission. No stranger would go up to a white woman and touch their breast, but somehow strangers feel comfortable enough to come up to me and touch my hair like it is not a part of me. I am not a zoo exhibit, I am a person. If somebody would ask me if they may touch my hair there is a possibility I may say yes. But at least give me choice. As people we need to have healthy conversations about how gender, color and age truly changes the experiences of people everywhere. ” Harris says.
Harris is a published author, her debut poetry collection “how much we must have looked like stars to the stars”
and more of her fantastic work can be bought and seen at alysiaharris.com