The first time I felt racism wasn’t at the hands of police officers, enraged racists, or even decrepit and old southerners. The first time I realized I was black was when two little white girls scoffed at my family as we went to our neighborhood pool in a predominantly white neighborhood in Maryland. We’d moved from Wilmington, NC and until then race hadn’t ever been an issue. Sure I knew that I was darker than some, but I’d never felt racism. My best friend in the world was a white kid named Nick who lived up the street.We went to my Dad’s predominately black church and he ended up joining. As time went on we made other friends became the poster children of diversity. By the end of elementary school we were a close knit group of Mexicans, Indians, Whites, and Blacks. That glass house of inclusion broke that day those White girls spoke. I’ll never forget their conversation.
“Oh my god they’re black people who live here now?” One said staring at us disgustingly.
“No, they probably snuck in here from the hood.” The little girl said satisfactorily.
They sneered at my little sister and I with so much hate. Like our presence was going to cause the sky to fall and the pool to boil over. We’d never even spoken to them. We stood by our bikes hurt and staring. My Dad was furious. He respectfully told the little girls that black people lived where ever we wanted, and to think we all lived in the hood was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. I was so confused that day. My father is a preacher, and up to that point I’d never came so close to cursing. The little girls walked off as if he’d never said anything. Completely unbothered by his loud reprimand. When they’d walk off my Dad pulled us close and tried to comfort us. No other time in my entire life had any judged me because of my skin. I’ve never forgotten their faces. Not even to this day. If you ever asked me what racism looked like their faces would be my immediate answer.
That depiction of racism was replaced after witnessing the death of Alton Sterling. There’s been myriad of death these last few years at the hands of police officers and neighborhood vigilantes, but this one hit me harder than any other. Watching the video I felt hopeless, truly hopeless. Seeing Alton’s pained and bewildered face as he looked up into the cold fluorescent lighting while his life slipped away hurt (If you watched that video and weren’t equally hurt I have serious doubts of your humanity and soul). Alton didn’t look like he knew what was happening or why he was being harassed, and that’s the trend we never know what we’ve done wrong. None of the other deceased men and women knew that they had committed any acts that qualified them for an immediate death.
As Black people we live in a different reality then our White counterparts, that’s just the facts. When they encounter police officers they don’t ever worry about not ever making it to the jails. Hell even the white serial killers who’ve blatantly murdered in the public eye have that level of faith. No Black person can say that anymore. We live in a desolate reality that reminds us daily that we are totally different from White people around us. We’re glaringly treated with a level of disdain merely because of our skin everyday. No matter where we go it’s there. In our workplaces we walk a fine line if we make one white person uncomfortable that’s our jobs. Don’t not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars. If you doubt that go to any office building and ask even the most passive Black man if he spoke loudly in a white woman’s direction would he still have his job. If you need more proof ask a Black woman has she had an outburst around her White coworkers. The answer would be no. We are trained to restrain our negative emotions out of fear of a looming misunderstanding.
We live in a world were simply being Black is an unforgivable offense. It’s an immediate strike on our records, and we are constantly forced to make others comfortable because any fear or open opposition results in negatives ranging from a) death b)loss of finances or c) jail time. Our very existence makes some people nervous. Our emotions are censored by a board of individuals around us who are sheltered by their complexion. We’re forced to hold in those same emotions whenever people speak negatively about things like #Blacklivesmatter, any racial based conversation, or even when we’re hurting following cases like Alton’s were being Black is a death sentence. We don’t hold in these emotions because we feel diminished, that’s not the case. We hold them because loosing that flood would devastate any left in it’s wake.There’s too much pain for us all to express in one moment. I’ve wanted to shatter the privileged mirror that many of the people I’ve known have been looking through their entire lives. I want them to feel the uncomfortable feelings I constantly shelter them from so equality can truly happen. But that will never happen. Never in a way that won’t result in a loss of life, or some glaring negative. The inconvenient truth is that White people are kept away from fear in any form. Just look at the “war on terror.” Any Muslim in their respective garb can find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun all because some “vigilant” person feels uncomfortable with something they don’t understand.
This world as shown me that my blackness is unforgivable from an early age. Being black means to be devalued and seen as less than in the eyes of so many. Growing up I wanted my blackness to be “forgivable” so I could live without fear of retaliation. I didn’t want it to hinder me and my goals. It wasn’t till later I realized how damaging of a psychosis that is to live under. Thinking that I needed forgiveness for how I came into this world. There’s a generation of children who like me feel that way now, and that’s a tragedy especially when it’s the majority who should be asking forgiveness for treating Black people so poorly merely for the color of our skin. We should no longer seek penance for our blackness in a world that holds it against us. I learned this lesson these last few months, and I’ll be sure to teach my daughter the same lesson.