So. The climate of the nation is in a very hurtful place right now, especially if you are a black person. You have to remember that we have ALL been living in crisis mode for months due to COVID-19. Then, as soon as we start to get a little relief from this global pandemic, a video surfaces of a black man being murdered and the pandemic that has plagued this country since day one rears it's hideous face...racism! Understand, the outrage is not about the murder of one man. If thats what you think, you have missed the entire point. I will not get into the politics or the tit for tats of the situation. But, what I will say is that for black people, it threw us back into crisis mode in the blink of an eye. I have heard a lot of silence. I have also heard a lot of criticisms and statements expressing that racism, whether systemic all the way down to microaggressions, doesn't exist anymore and it's time to move on. Well, let me tell you, that, my friends, could not be further from the truth. I understand that for people who are not of color, your world and truth are very different than the ugliness that your counterparts face. It is a tough and tiring thing to have to hear about and face daily on your social media feeds and in the news. Well, if you can turn it off because you are too tired, that, my friend, is privilege. One that your counterparts do not have. We cannot turn it off, so imagine how tired we are. If you know a single person of color, then you know someone who has dealt with racism and bias in some form or another. It is simply the plain truth of having black or brown skin. Yes, even me!
Many people have made excuses for why people of color end up being treated unfairly. It's been said that it is due to their past or lack of drive for better in life or some other factor outside of race. Well, I want to share with you my personal experience with racism and bias in hopes that it will help you to see that it has absolutely everything to do with race. I will tell you that these are just a very few that left a major, lasting impact on me as a person, but the list could go on.
Age 9: I was a fourth grader at a local predominately white school. My community had begun a "busing" policy to desegregate schools. I happened to become friends with a white girl whose mother worked at the school. I had been warned to be careful because her mom did not like black people, so we hid our friendship as best we could to protect it. One day, we made the "mistake" of walking to canteen together. Her mother was waiting on the sidewalk to give her money. When we saw her, I went on ahead while she talked to her mom. When I made my way back, her mother was waiting on me. She stopped me, got right in my face almost nose to nose, and said "I don't like black people. My daughter is not allowed to be friends with black people. If I ever see you around her again, you will regret it". I was devastated. Yes, my teacher figured out what happened and called my parents. Yes, my parents came and talked to the principal. The teacher's punishment....a slap on the wrist. Nothing happened to her. But, for me, I formed the logic that I was not allowed to be friends with white people. I did not have another white friend until I was 28 years old because of this. I still struggle at age 35 with totally being comfortable in those interracial friendships.
Age 23: I was an undergraduate intern at a middle school health center in a very rural community. The community is known to have a very racist history and is even famous for one incident involving 6 black teens. I worked 2-3 days a week at that school and did not really face much adversity. Almost each day, the staff I worked with and I would walk across the street to a convenience store/grill to get lunch or a snack or just fresh air. There were never any issues to my recollection. Then, November 2008 came and the USA had elected it's first black president. I remember being over the moon excited, until I had to get up to go to my internship. The entire atmosphere there had shifted and I could feel it. People were less inviting to me and I felt the need to totally hide my excitement about this historic moment that I had lived through. At lunch time, when it was time for our usual walk, it was recommended that I stay behind. It was implied that it was for my safety because of the current political climate and me being black. I don't remember going on the walks anymore after that. I also no longer drive through that town because my anxiety flares every time I attempt to. I formed the logic that I was not allowed to celebrate my pride in being black out loud, as to not offend anyone or put myself in harm's way.
Those are the two that left the biggest impact on me. But, I could go on all day about the microaggressions that I have faced as well. From the assumptions that I have government assistance when I come to the register with a basket full of groceries to being told that my hair looks so nice and professional when it is straight, as opposed to it's natural texture, to being told that I am not a real black person because I use proper English and am educated to the jokes with racial undertones, including being told that I am just at a predominately white bar because I am looking for a good credit score. Like I said, I could go on, but I won't. None of them, not one of those things that I experienced, had a thing to do with anything outside of one factor....my race!
Racism, inequality, and injustice are still very much alive for those of the black community. Yes, we do understand that all lives matter. We agree wholeheartedly! That is why we are fighting and demanding for you to understand that black lives are apart of all lives and we need to matter as much as everyone else. We are not asking for a silver spoon or your pity. We are DEMANDING equity and to be treated with basic human dignity. I get it. It is exhausting having to see it and hear about it and talk about it. It is so troubling having to digest information that says that the world and the truth that you have lived in has not been the entire truth....and in many cases, an outright lie. But, imagine, just for a moment, how exhausted we are!! To know not only your truth, but ours, and to have to either shut up, fall in line with yours, and hide our truth or fight for our truth to set us free! If you are uncomfortable right now, good! The only way anything is going to change is for each and every one of us to get uncomfortable, have the tough conversations, and demand change TOGETHER! Change is happening, with or without you. It is your choice what side of history you will be on.
Light and Love.....