I don’t grow a beard for religious reasons, or for any reason that could place me along the spectrum of being a hipster (though, I will admit, the thought of it is appealing as a disguise if for nothing else). No, I keep my beard because a thick black beard on a brown male disturbs people; it makes them uneasy and allows for the insensitive bigot in them to come out and play.
I keep a beard because if I was white, no one would question it or treat it or me otherwise. But because I’m brown, everyone suddenly pays attention.
They do everything with suddenly more caution, shift their eyes more, breathe heavier. And most of all, are waiting for an opportunity to throw generations worth of vitriol my way (a large majority of which has undoubtedly been passed down from their parents. and their parents before them, and so on).
And I can’t wait. Because you see, it is in these moments that a human being is not only this vile, inconsiderate, and in an overall deplorable state, but also the most vulnerable to revealing their weaknesses: that they, as people, are not fortunate enough to want to share in the story of another people, or perhaps were not fortunate enough to be taught to share in the journey; to act as a neighbour, or more importantly, a host (WE are the parasites after all).
No, there’s something more that goes untold in all that anger and rage against a coloured body, but above all the fear. The fear of losing ground (or jobs, whichever way you want to look at it), the fear of changing one’s ways (arguably to a better one but who wants to argue with the dense and the dull), to give way to the future (full of unseasoned food and microwave dinners? – I think not! and to think they call US villains??!!).
I mean, come on! If I inherited this land from my birth after my forefathers had raped and pillaged and forcefully taken it from people who had potentially lived on it for centuries, and then suddenly some aliens showed up one day and had said that they left everything behind for a new life here, well damn I’d be afraid of them too. Because starting over from nothing is impossible, even frightening, to comprehend to people who started with everything.
So when I am told to trim my beard, or cut it, or rid of it altogether by people who care for my wellbeing, I scoff at the idea of giving up such a valuable opportunity at performance art.
Because my beard not only exists to disturb people who harbour negative feelings against me, but to remind them that I exist. And that I will go on existing despite how they feel.
And that the stronger they feel, the more willing I am to exist to remind them, to demand from them, my claim of space and the respect that I duly deserve.