Being Black 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?
Why should black history matter to you?
The poem above is one written by my older sister. It is a glimpse into the never ending worry and concerns that only a select people have to deal with. The color of my skin plays more of a role in how I am perceived than it should. I live in a country that does not always show me common decency respect, or even value. However, I do believe that life does not have to be lived this way. Change, though currently stiffled, can one day come. It starts with everyday people who are not content with the status quo.
After the mainstream media portrayal of the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings during the summer of 2016, I found that I was yet again reminded by the nation I am supposed to love that it does not often show love to people who look like me. Moreover, there are so many cases of people like these men - people who's lives were taken that we never hear about. Why should this matter to you? It matters because the future of how we interact with one another as well as the lives our children will lead is being created now. We are writing the future. Until we can inspire cultural change, our legacy and future look bleak.
I fear a day where my son or daughter - who bearing my genetic makeup - would feel disgraced, ashamed, or under valued. Leaning and understanding black history means being willing to open yourself up to the narrative of what the black community has endured and continues to face everyday.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.
Every year Black History month comes around and I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place. Because of the cities I grew up in, I find that the majority of my friends do not look like I do or share my ethnic background. With a whole month dedicated to celebrating the achievements of black americans, shedding light on the inequalities we face, and pleading for change among our counterparts;, I frequently felt as a child that should I harp on about the importance of black history I would bore my peers. Furthermore, should I dare to share my struggles on self-doubt tied to my skin color or stories of the racism I had experienced, I would make my friends uncomfortable. However, with age comes new perspective. Increasingly I find that I am less deterred by the though of disturbing the comfortability of my non-black counterparts. If you are disturbed by the accomplishments of black men and women, then you are not my true friend. If you are made uneasy by the discrimination rampant in our society, then show you care by speaking up for those who's voices carry less privilege and social clout.
I will throw out this disclaimer: I do not consider myself a spokes person for all black people, and greatly discourage that type of thinking when friends/acquaintances ask me for input on how to handle interracial relations. My highlighting of the plight of black americans is to shed light on a narrative that affects me and one that I am more familiar with. This in no means is to negate the suffering of other people groups (which is sadly prevalent in the systematic oppression of many individuals) or to make anyone feel guilty. However, if you do find yourself feeling guilty and/or uncomfortable I urge to figure out why.
Being privileged does not mean you are to blame for discrimination, hate crimes, or all the injustices of the world. However, staying silent in the face of injustice does mean that you are condoning it. If you have a friend who comes from a marginalized segment of society and in your daily life do not stand up for others who like them who are less privileged, think about how it would affect those you hold dear. Try to put yourself in the shoes of "the other". It is when those with courage, privilege, and social clout come together and influence the influential that true societal change occurs.
If you want to learn a bit more about what it is like for me as a black female in America, click here to get a glimpse into some of my inner thoughts and experiences.