Disclaimer: These days have been dark, murders are publisized, and our hurt is seen as an unlawful overreaction. But someone’s mother is watching this unfold as she brings a black body into this world. A father looks on and wonders if he will one day say goodbye to his family far too soon. Children all across the nation face fear and rage. We are growing up in a world that does not quiet its racial limitations, lack of representation, lack of true justice, etc. The voices in this nation that ignore our need for racial equality are loud.
And we have nowhere to go. This is Home.
With all that being said, before diving into this piece if you are facing difficult emotions, or went out protesting in the last 24-48 hours, and just think a break is needed…take it. Come back and read this later. Do not let anyone tell you that you need to further submerge yourself if you are already suffocating.
Now let us begin.
“What do I say when my people run to war for probable resolution, emotions lethal with a bitterness that’s clouded our eyes.
Let the tap run wild with the blood of my sisters, shooting at my family like you weren’t first a pillaging looter.
So heartless to see a murderer given a badge–a constant sense of validation. You walk into my neighborhood and only service those familiar to you, as you await a new paycheck.
The violence is aimless because the enemy is a broad cover…the streets turn to rage and we show them they forgot to remember our worth.
Another life wasted to them is just water down the drain, but every day I wake up and fight for a peace I may never attain.
This is insanity.
Black lives matter and it is more than just a hashtag.
I wear my heart on my sleeve, sending love with every breath, just before my government backstabs me again.”
-Troy Marsh (My little brother)
So what do I say to him, my brother? Because I can’t exactly stop his pain or his fears.
I think the hardest thing about living in America, aside from being a racial minority, is having to equip your younger relatives with tools of survival before they have even decided to live.
Yet, I have no hate to give. No anger left in my body. No piercing words to send down the spine of anyone who chooses to ignore what is in front of their eyes. I have nothing left.
Forgive me if that makes me not as strong, but if I dig too far all that remains are tears and loathing. And frankly, I’m done crying.
But to clarify, for anyone who has lost sight of reality. What is happening on the news, Is much deeper than what the news is showing you.
If you are wondering why we are so angry, I’ll tell you why.
But I will tell you from a perspective I have lived.
Junior year of high school, suburban area, just after lunch, 2018:
I sit in a classroom, a room no more special than any other.
But in this class, I was told I would be learning about history.
I was one of maybe 3-5 other racial minorities, but the only black girl.
One day in class, our conversation diverted slightly from our typical lesson and we began to discuss some current events. I think any good teacher will agree that there are moments when the curriculum matters less than a potentially life-altering conversation.
This was indeed life-altering.
This day, in this class, two years before I would go off to face the world alone, was one of the first moments I understood that no matter what I did or accomplished in the eyes of this teacher, I was always just black to him.
“Racism in America today is just simply a case of over dramatics.”
Yes, my white history teacher said this allowed to my class.
So of course, I let him finish his rant, allowed him the creative space to piece together a series of links with facts that validated his claim, and I even let him tell me all about his “black friend”(the one that all undercover racists have)…the one that exempted him from the possibility of being racially insensitive.
Then I politely rose my hand. Without yelling and doing my best to keep my composure, I very bluntly let him know his place, the disrespect I felt in having to sit through his list of inaccuracies, how it was disgusting for him to pass his own racial opinions onto a class of impressionable teens, and how he as a white man could never and should never make claims on the validity of black trauma because he will never be black.
But I refused to get angry. I didn’t even so much as raise my voice, I’m sure he would’ve loved that though. Any excuse to invalidate what I said. But I gave him nothing.
And he never spoke to me directly again.
Fast forward a few years after receiving my acceptance into Columbia University. A school where I would be able to continue competing on a D1 level and get an esteemed education in one of the most amazing cities in the world.
And yet I heard whispers in the halls of students comparing my efforts to those of students also attending IVY league schools in the fall–and there were only 2 others, and I was the only black one.
“Oh, Rachel is going to a lesser IVY though, not as popular. It’s like a lower-tier one”
“She’s running track though, that’s probably how she got in.”
“Yea but ____ is going to…”
“Is she even that smart.”
Doesn’t look like racism or racial profiling, does it? I’m sure they meant no harm in saying what they said when they assumed I couldn’t hear.
But I did hear…and look how I treated you, as though I had heard nothing.
I will not compare this to what has happened to the strong black men and women who have met a tragic end at the hand of law enforcement, but I will ask why do you only seem to hear us when we can no longer speak for ourselves?
Do I have to die to be taken seriously? For my accomplishments to not be undermined. For my life to matter, to be important, to be valuable? Will you always just see the color of my skin and the mistakes I’ve made?
It’s funny how the media coverage that follows black tragedy, like the death of George Floyd, is always some account of his wrongdoings while he was still alive. Does that make you feel better America? To know that he was flawed? Did that rid you of the guilt you felt when you realized you may have done something horrific and unforgivable?
Interesting that even in a moment of death, America does anything to worsen the wounds. Still, we are criminalized, shamed, and blamed for the pain inflicted on us.
Yes, I was recruited to the university for athletics. In doing so I balanced a sport, extracurricular activities, isolation, and undeserved scrutiny from peers and still got the opportunity.
This is where the anger starts. Because other kids who sit in classrooms just like me are always having to prove their worth to everyone around them. At what point will I reach a level of success in which you will see me as an equal.
Oh, and the police…
The power complex that exists among many cops validates this feeling of worthlessness. There must be an immense amount of energy that surges behind the hand that holds a gun.
A sort of power that to them must justify pinning an unarmed man down, despite his lack of breath. A badge that displays honor really means, “Listen to me or I might ruin your life.” Where is the protect and serve? Where is the justice?
My own heart races. I’m afraid of cops. Why am I afraid of cops?
I include my anecdote and bring it up now because at some point the media coverage will stop. We will settle down, a bit. And those who were trying to ignore the situation will go back to life as usual. Its happened for decades.
But look around you. This trauma is everywhere.
I don’t want pitty support. And I honestly couldn’t care less whether you re-posted an image to your Instagram story or ranted all over social media about how ugly the world is.
You can’t control the cop. You weren’t there. But that is not the only time racism exists. And that cop didn’t wake up one day and just decide that black lives were expendable.
Stop it at its root.
Stop tokenizing black people to validate how you view yourself. I will no longer be a trophy to you or proof that you can’t possibly be racially insensitive. This extends to the educational system as well. Calling a certain curriculum “inclusive” because you threw in a few black writers is lazy.
Don’t touch my hair. I never asked to touch yours. Go buy a doll–or something.
Stop comparing light-skinned and dark-skinned individuals. Not only are you teaching self-hate, you are giving us an extension of your own opinion. I never asked. My skin is beautiful, and all-black skin is beautiful. Any questions?
Stop telling little black girls and little black boys they sound white. It’s like to sound educated, or proper, or to use more complex language is reserved, for…white people?
Don’t tell me that I am pretty for a black girl or fetishize his blackness. Ew?
I don’t care who you choose to build a life with. But if you choose a black man/woman you will bear black youth. It then becomes your job to educate them on their history and what challenges they may face in life. If not, you do them a disservice.
Don’t ever assume an individual of color got the opportunity to attend an illustrious university or received a job opportunity at your expense. I didn’t take your spot, I took mine.
Do you see now, aMeRiCa?
You let these things slide and think nothing in the moment.
You miss the tears that follow your commentary. You miss the way black children come home and question their value because you tried to tell them they had none. You force black youth into boxes you see fit because they keep you in power.
But I won’t prove my blackness to you any more than I will prove to you my worth.
The responsibility to fix these issues rests on all of us. It takes every voice.
Even issues that seem so small, are important.
Because eventually, the racism you ignore becomes a death we can’t escape.