Living While Black
In light of recent events, I thought it would be more than appropriate to take a moment and reflect on the American breed of racism and the plight of a people group that seems to have just a little "too much" melanin in their skin -- the depressing disposition of my people. Yes, all human life is precious and that is not up for debate. But all lives matter when black lives too matter.
It would seem that the most treacherous crime one can commit in the United States is Living While Black. Recently, black men and women have been killed for the following reasons:
Walking home with a friend; Wearing a hoodie; Riding a train
Calling for help after a car accident; Failing to signal a lane change
Sitting in a car; Holding their own wallet; Making eye contact; Laughing
And the list goes on... But why? I have no answer. No reason other than evil is a plague that infects the society I live in. Evil that wishes to destroy a people - completely shattering the spirits of a long suffering people. Over 250 Black people were fatally shot by the police in 2015 alone [Read more here]. The United States of America pretends to be a progressive nation, a safe haven for all, the moral compass of the globe, and a country of possibilities. Unfortunately, this can only be your reality if you are born with pale skin and/or your lineage stems from anywhere other than the African continent.
More often than not, people are content to look away from this homicidal epidemic which runs rampant through the Land of the "Free". I too was once becoming desensitised to the violent murdering of my people, but my perspective recently shifted.
After living in Italy for 4+ months, I felt for the first time in my life that I was free to be who I truly am. No projections of who I ought to be as an African girl, I found myself liberated from the shackles and restraints that America gives me based on my skin color. I walked without fear that at any moment another human could act upon the impulse that my life was less valuable than that of my caucasian counterparts. For the first time in my life I felt safe to walk down the street with my friends at night, carry a large bag into a department store, date outside of my race, and not look over my shoulder when surrounded by police enforcement.
It can be hard to truly understand your personal worth and value when you are never allowed to experience life to the fullest. This is not a new concept by any means -- it is call the colonization of the mind. You might remove the laws of the slaver, but the chains of racism still restrict people every day. While racism may not be uniformly applied by all members of society, it is still rampant in 21st century American society.
The demoralisation it can impose on the psyche is unimaginable, and upon returning to The States I find that I am overwhelmed by the never ending worry I feel. The fear for my life, the lives of my family & friends, and the quality of life I know we are lacking. However, the fear that scares me the most is that one day I could ever regret that I was born into my skin. I refuse to cave into thoughts that tell me I should have been born pale skinned with straight hair and blue-green eyes. I am and will always be a black women, and I am proud of the way my God has made me.
If in reading this post you have felt :
- Annoyed/frustrated by the continuous vocalisation surrounding racism towards black people and police brutality
- Detached from the issue of racism [no matter your skin color/heritage]
- Hopeless in the face of racial turmoil
Here is my response. No, not every police officer is malicious. White privilege does not mean you are to blame for the hate crimes being committed, but staying silent in the face of injustice does mean that you are condoning it. I dare not stop there...if you find yourself in another racial group this principal applies to you too. Use your privilege and social clout to bring justice to a people whose voice is continually seized from them. Encourage your fellow human, and take action to make this a safer and better world. This sounds wonderful in theory, but will mean nothing if you decide to let this be someone else's solution to practice.
Furthermore, you are never truly helpless. Education and Faith are the two things in this life that no one can take away from you. To my readers who like me are Living While Black: do not give up. Keep strong in this fight. This is not a problem for others to fix, we must endeavour to remind the world that we are here and we deserve true equality. After the tragic killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile I was unable to articulate how I felt. This poem by a loved one begins to showcase what a day is like in my shoes - the shoes of a black individual residing in America:
O to be a human with "black" skin.
To be regarded with so much suspicion and fear. Fear that poisons the mind as well as the soul.
O to be a human with "black" skin.
To worry if her brothers and sisters are safe.
To wonder if I make people afraid--intimidate too much or smile too little. To wonder about the value of your own life in the eyes of others.
Will I be given the benefit of the doubt?
Will I be given a second chance?
Will my brother? Will my sister?