I contemplated sharing this in its entirety, but as the days passed, I knew I had to share with with others. What’s going on in America seems like a nightmare, I can hardly believe this is my reality. However, when we learn about each other’s stories, we can debunk stereotypes and assumptions, and create unity in our communities and countries. Here is my story:
As a 28-year-old African American woman living in American during the 21st century, I have seen my fair share of injustices. And because of what I have seen and experienced, I understand my privilege; but I am tired, frustrated, and yet determined.
My life is not a stereotype. I did not grow in a project development, attend a school with low graduation rates, dodge bullets on the neighborhood playground, grow up missing meals, or was never shown the possibilities life had to offer me. Instead, I grew up in a military family, excelled in schools where teachers poured into me, had a stable home, never missed any meals, attended a prestigious university, and discovered my worth.
Yet, even with my privilege, it did not shield me from discrimination, both outside and within my race. While on a trip to New York City during my freshman year of college, I stopped in a fancy clothing store for women to get away from the cold night. I noticed – as I was half browsing, half warming up – that the older, Black male security officer and older, white female store worker were watching me. I hated that they assumed I was going to steal something; so I left.
But even more disappointing than people outside of your race making assumptions about you, is your own race treating you differently because of how you talk and act. When I talk, I use proper English; which is the result of years of reading many books and referencing the dictionary when I asked my parents the spelling of a word. In high school, I wore jeans and a t-shirt religiously, listened to country music, played the clarinet, and was serious about my studies. Somehow those things (and maybe other things I did) made me different, and to try to grasp all that I was, I was labeled an “Oreo.” An “Oreo” is a term used to describe a person who appears to be Black on the outside but exhibits “white” characteristics. I struggled for years with my identity being stripped from me by people who looked just like me. However, if you look back at history, you will see that this isn’t anything new…it’s a result of slavery. Slaves were divided on a plantation by their strength and abilities, complexion, and beauty. Then, perhaps through the 1970s, there was division in the African American community based on whether a person had lighter (favorable) or darker (unfavorable) skin. And now, it’s about your level of Blackness and “wokeness”, where your “Black card” can be revoked for reneging in spades or not knowing Black pop culture references. Identity and relationship with one’s culture should not be divided nor discredited due to the completion of their skin color or background experiences.
A couple of years ago, I remember sitting in my mother’s bedroom watching CNN coverage of the Michael Brown shooting in Missouri. I sat there confused and upset about what happened to him, thinking that this couldn’t be happening in 2014. During the years that followed, there were more names falling victim to the assumptions others have of African Americans, and African American males in particular. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philandro Castile, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd, and Oscar Grant. Those are just a few African American men and women who had video and photographic evidence of their deaths; unfortunately, there are many more African Americans whose deaths have no evidence nor get the attention they deserve. How many more Black lives need to be taken before we change as a country? I’m tired of seeing the Criminal Justice System failing my people.
Our country has misdiagnosed our problem of injustice as a police issue, it’s not! We are dealing with a people issue. When assumptions are made based off stereotypes, it can have deadly and lingering effects. A Black man is labeled a thug because he wears his clothes looser than a white man. A Black boy is a threat because he plays with a toy gun, but there’s nothing wrong with white children using real guns. A Black man is a criminal because he sells or uses illegal drugs but it’s justified when a white man does it. A Black man is a monster when he’s (rightly or wrongly) accused of raping a white woman, but the accomplishments of a white man is highlighted when he is accused of raping a Black woman. I’m frustrated because our country is hypocritical, ignorant, stubborn, and is resistant to change.
I’m also frustrated with Black people and the situation we have been placed in. There is literally no point in burning and looting our own communities when protesting for justice. It plays into the idea that Black people don’t deserve better because they can’t even appreciate what they have. It also limits or depletes the little economic opportunities that were in that community; burning and looting didn’t help during the L.A. riots of 1992 and it won’t help now. I loathe the fact that African Americans must be hyper aware of what they do and how it might be perceived by others. We can’t be our authentic selves because of the fear of what others might think or do. As I mentioned before, it all stems from slavery and the way white men treated and defined Black people. They made us out to be monsters; a threat that wants to take over America. But we don’t, we just want equality, just as God designed.
Despite my frustrations and experiences as a Black woman in America, I choose to be hopeful. Even if I don’t live to see the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had or a country where the Criminal Justice System works fairly for all, I will do my part while I am living. I will have conversations with those who don’t look like me, I will share my story, and I will research our history to help us not repeat it. Lastly, I want to start a non-profit organization for underprivileged youth, so that they can: know their worth, express themselves creatively, and be afforded the opportunities I had growing up.
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your story, comment below or share a link to your blog page. Share my story with others, and together, we can make a difference.
Peace & Blessings,