I am writing today as a tired Black woman. As a woman who is clinically inclined to panic. To become depressed. To become overwhelmed by the goings-on around her.
I have commented here and there on the injustices in this country, and have long been vocal against systemic racism and racial inequalities in the United States of America. And now, I’m at a loss.
My battle with racism started when I was just a little girl. I went to an almost all-white private Christian school in the small town of Beaumont, CA. I always say that I never knew I was Black until my family moved to that rural town that seemed to be accidentally dropped in the middle of the desert.
It wasn’t until the other students would comment on my AAVE (African American Vernacular English) that I noticed something was different about me. And then, something happened in elementary school. I wanted to get on the swing after another student. When I asked, the kid responded to me “No, nigger.”
I had never heard that word before, so I went to the school security guard (who was white) and asked “What does ‘nigger’ mean?” They said nothing for a moment and looked horrified. I was afraid I had said a bad word, but I wasn’t sure which one.
They asked, “Where did you hear that?” I pointed them to the kid on the swing.
In the years following, classmates would write things like “you’re my nigga” in my yearbooks every year, calling me things like “burnt toast” and “monkey.” They would always pull my braids and ask me about how I do or do not get sunburns. At pool parties, they would wait for my skin to dry to draw pictures with their fingernails on my back.
(On a Black person’s skin, a scratch or other physical disturbance leaves behind a white mark when the skin is dry. It was with these white marks that they would draw their imaginings on me.)
This was all normal to me, so it rarely bothered me. That is, until I was told that I couldn’t play with another girl because she didn’t “play with Black kids.” The boys in high school would take my things and then tell me “run nigger, nigger, nigger” to go retrieve them.
Such things would happen regularly, so often that these aggressions and microaggressions became normal.
What you must understand about the Black person in America is that we live in this reality daily, throughout our entire lives. So much so, that we don’t often discuss it outside of a mention here and there. Unless a racist interaction somehow breaks the normalcy of an under-the-breath, passive aggressive, or ignorant comment, we digest these instances and move on.
What does this mean for you, as a non-Black person? This means that it is your responsibility – not ours – to create a space for discourse on these issues. We have been telling you for years about the pain and fear we experience regarding police brutality and mass incarceration. We have been telling you for years that we live in an entirely different America.
If you claim to be an ally, if you claim to have a soul, if you claim to have a heart, then now is the time to initiate that discourse, and listen.Tweet
I never knew how bad things were until all my experiences were confirmed and given further, deeper context when I went to college. When I entered adulthood and learned of the true atrocities of slavery, how they erased our past, stole us from our people and our land, and how those practices were so utterly, consistently disgusting, that they changed even the forces of nature.
This systemic oppression persists today.
- Inequalities in wealth distribution
- Targeted incarceration
- Shorter life expectancy
- Inequities in unemployment
- Restricted access to higher education
- Inaccessibility to environmentalism
- Increased exposure to environmental hazards
The list goes on and on.
It is no longer our responsibility to force you into awareness. Throughout our entire lives, we have been bombarded with traumatic images of Black bodies being brutalized by systemic racism, in one form or another. We are tired.Tweet
So, if you truly intend to help – if it is your genuine desire to see change, then do something. We don’t want to see a “blackout” profile picture and to hear you call it a day. Like many have been saying, it’s not enough to be “not racist.” It’s not enough to have “a Black friend.” Put your money where your mouth is and put some action to your deflections.
Seek out information on the Black experience. Seek out information on how you can begin to dismantle the racism ingrained so deeply into this godforsaken place. But don’t put it on us anymore. Don’t DM your Black friends asking what to do and how to respond to the protests, how you can get on the front lines, how you can make a difference. You do it yourself.
I was just a little girl when my fight began. And I have been speaking for years on what racism is, teaching my white friends how and how not to speak to me and other Black people, and more. Now, it’s my time to acknowledge that I am overwhelmed. I am tired.
I will yield my time for now, and will amplify my Black brothers and sisters and non-gendered siblings as they continue to educate and involve non-Black people into this resistance.
And when you’re ready to put away your soapbox and privilege, consult the resources below on how to support us during this time.
In support of Christian Cooper:
In support of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, and all Black lives lost to police brutality and systemic racism, along with the Black Lives Matter Protests:
For the mental health of Black people during this time:
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