When did you first realize you were black? When did you first realize that being black actually affected how you would be treated? When did you first feel uncomfortable about being the only black person in the room? For me, it started in elementary school. There weren’t many black kids in my class but I never thought anything of it. But then I noticed small differences between my classmates and myself. It would start with teachers thinking that I had “an attitude problem” when I knew there were girls in my class with way more sass than I did. It was so subtle that I wouldn’t even say this was the moment I realized I was black. What started it for me was in high school. I got “woke” around my sophomore/junior year.
Listen, I thought I knew it all. I spent the summer of 2013 buried in research on Blacks in America.I listened to so much old school hip hop I promise you I could recite any political rap song from cover to cover. I got put into this box for years of being this bitchy black girl. I thought I finally found my voice through my roots. I did , but it was at the expense of my peers. Whenever someone black didn’t quite care enough ,in my opinion, I wrote them of as ignorant, white washed, and self-hating. If I was so “woke” why wouldn’t I take the time to educate rather than jump down their throat more than likely turning them away from whatever knowledge I was attempting to spread. I saw a tweet a few weeks ago from an Alcorn State student. He’s a political science major from Mississippi and Trey said how he wouldn’t belittle anyone who didn’t know about the Central Park 5. It brought me back to when I would mindlessly brush people off for not knowing our history. It resonated with me because that’s a statement in itself. We aren’t even taught about us.
That same summer was the summer Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman. I remember being on twitter. I remember feeling like my body was overwhelmed with fire. How? How could a boy who is only a year older than me be murdered? Why was he murdered for being black? I remember arguing and yelling on the phone with white kids from school. I felt so numb. Then I felt kind of empty as more police brutality became publicized over the years. Seeing the videos. The pictures. The recordings. My little brother is a black boy. He’s aggravating as hell, he’s goofy, he’s caring, and innocent. But, that’s not how the world will view him. Some people will look at my brother and assume he’s the worst thing on the planet. Some people will look at him and think he’s a threat. They will look at him and not see my happy brother they will see someone that they don’t believe belongs in society.
I have two good friends I met in college. Davonte and Grant are exceptional black men. Exceptional men overall and every conversation I have ever had with them I always pray for them after. Silently, but in my heart I pray that they are never victims of police brutality and that the media doesn’t destroy the character of two powerful black men that I hold so highly in my head. I fear that media would find anything about them to prove that there has to be something wrong because they are black.
It’s a constant fear being black I feel. You don’t express it everyday and you don’t speak on it often. We just feel it. In our PWI history classes we glance at each other at the brief mention of slavery. We feel it in public when we see a cop with black person. We slow down just a little just to make sure everything is okay. We feel it at night when you hope your friend is home safe. We feel it when you can’t get in touch with a friend and you hope in your heart that they haven’t been attacked or targeted. Our fear is so silent that it has begun to feel like weight that was put there for protection but the weight cannot protect us.
The Central Park 5 brought a conversation of what fear is for my generation. When They See Us recirculated a conversation that we can never stop sharing. It’s painful to think about. It’s painful to live it. When you see it a black man ,you see me. When you see a black woman, you see me. When you see them attacked and targeted for being black, you are seeing me attacked. So what do we do? I don’t want people to stop seeing me but at some point you can’t keep seeing me being killed. You can’t keep seeing me in a hashtag. Our families can’t handle anymore of that.