With the ridiculousness of this Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter ordeal it makes me think that maybe these All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter shouters just don't understand what it is like to be Black in America in 2018. I mean of course they don't know because the majority of them are not black themselves but I also feel that a lot of them do not make a conscious effort to understand.
A lot of our melanin-less friends would like to believe that because we are no longer in the field picking cotton and getting whipped by our masters or walking outside seeing our family members hanging from trees for public humiliation, racism is dead and we have been miraculously placed on a level playing field. However, this is not true and I just wanted to highlight some of the things that we face on a daily that makes our experiences different. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, nor is this meant to represent black people individually, because all of our experiences are different.
1. Being the only brown person in the room
For all of my life I have attended predominately white schools and been employed by predominately white workplaces and this never gets more comfortable. Particularly with all of the racist acts that have happened in the past few years, I think my senses are now heightened. I feel even more alone and outcasted now than I ever have. Now that the people that were undercover racists are feeling more comfortable with verbalizing their racist remarks I begin to wonder what are people thinking. And honestly, they may not be thinking anything, but it is the feeling of isolation that can be overwhelming. Most of the time a white person does not have to walk around and look to see if there are others that look like them in the room. It is absolutely isolating and unexplainably awkward and lonely sometimes.
2. Having to fight for rights that are given to others freely
Here we go again with the controversy (it's okay I don't mind). Colin Kaepernick is an excellent current example of this, as well as all of the black men and women that have been killed by law enforcement officers. What Colin Kaepernick did was sit down because he saw an injustice and decided to use his celebrity to bring notice to the issue, just as we have been begging other celebs to do. People have burned jerseys with this man's name on it, they have absolutely slandered his name, and so much more, for not pledging allegiance for a flag and a song that were never meant for his freedom anyway. People say that it was a disrespect to this country but how is it respectful to this country to be seriously considering Donald Trump as a president? A lot of people are trying to bring veterans into the conversation but how many of our beloved veterans are being failed by this country right now and living on the streets? I don't care if he sat down because he was sitting because he was tired, he does not have to stand up for a country that is not standing up for his race right now. This is something that has been going on in this country for centuries. People have tried to tell minorities where we can sit, where we can eat, which water fountain to drink out of, where to live, and so much more from the beginning of time. It is 2016 and it is still not okay for a person of color to stand up for what is right.
3. We have to work 10x's harder
Blacks in America have to work 10x's harder to prove how smart we are; that we are not just athletic or entertainment spectacles. White people all around this country paid plenty money to see Kobe Bryant's last game but are against any progression as far as education, employment, and status. As we have seen voluminously in the past couple years, we have have to fight 10x's as hard to prove that our lives matter, that it is not okay for our children, husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins to be murdered by the people that have been sworn in to serve and protect ALL people. It has amazed me that since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter Movement how many people have disputed that fact.
Not only do we have to work harder and smarter but we also have to be more cautious in our work and our behavior at work. When a person of color is on the job we are looked at much more closely than a white person would be, even for the same thing. When a person of color communicates in a direct manner it is considered hostile and will be reported with the quickness, however, when other races do the same it is not seen as an issue. This is the same when we are deciding what we choose to wear, how we wear our hair. While we should be able wear our hair how we choose we must take our jobs into consideration because unfortunately it is a risk. This is even true for our men as well, dreadlocks and other styles are not always accepted in the work place even if he is making sure they are maintained. The judgments and preconceived notions on how we handle ourselves beat us through the door so we have to be careful to outperform anyone else with the best of our ability even though at times that still won't be enough.
4. Categorized as the same while others can celebrate their differences
The amount of times that I have heard one black celebrity mistaken for another black celebrity that looks and sounds nothing like the compared is countless. All of our men are thugs. All of our women are on welfare. We all think the same. How many times have you been the only black person in the room and when anything about the black culture or any issue concerning a black person in the news comes up and all eyes turn to you? We are all just back and it less accepted for a black person to say, "No, I am Kenyan" or "I am Jamaican" to the point that a lot of us do not really know our backgrounds as we should. Yet, you here people of other races to talk about being Irish and German and French, etc. I will even go as far as to say that other ethnicities and races experience the same struggle. Every Asian is marked as Chinese and every latino is marked as Mexican. We are not all the same, we do not all look the same, we were not all raised the same, and we do not all think the same.
In a previous job I was the only black employee and we had a new black client coming and the other employees couldn't get her name right and the first thing they said was, "Khia, you're gonna have to help us get that name right". Excuse me?! Just because I am black does not mean that I am any better at how to pronounce a name, just as I will have to learn it you can do the same. We are placed in these categories and tagged with these labels that do not even make sense a lot of the time.
5. Made fearful and feared
Thinking about this point made me more emotional than any other point, I think. I hate to keep going back police officer versus black people but it is so relevant that I can't help it. When I think about these instances, the social worker in me can't help but think that the thought processes in these officers were taught and learned. A lot of these circumstances have happened in quick, naive, and prejudice judgment because of what they have been taught to think about approaching a black male. Most of these men and young boys that have been killed were not even armed with a weapon and even a young man that warned the officer of the weapon was still shot and killed. These acts come from fear and a defense that is put on as soon as they step out of the patrol car. So, now that the people hired to protect us have feared us, we now have to fear them. We now have to be nervous that if I get pulled over by a police officer I may not be making it home just because of a little speeding. When I see a black person getting pulled over by the police I am slowing down and praying and watching to make sure nothing unlawful is happening.
It is not fair and in 2016 things should not be this way. BUT, I want to end this with something positive. We may have these things, and so much more against us but we also have some really great, positive things about being black in america in 2016.
1. We come from amazing ancestry
Though it may not be documented correctly in the history books we know that we come from kings and queens and some of the richest, most powerful people in the world. I had a client once that always gave me these great black history lessons and it amazed me that we have such a rich history that is almost hidden.
2. We are beautiful, unique, and powerful
The phrase of the last couple of months has been cultural appropriation. From the braids, to bantu knots, to barrettes, all given different names to make them sound less ethnic it is getting crazy. I love Kim Kardashian probably more than the next person but her cornrows being called boxer braids? Get a life! Black girls everywhere have been teased for the big lips, hips, and butts we were born with and now white girls are paying thousands to have it and it is all of a sudden a big deal. There is an ad that always comes up on pinterest for a tanning lotion and the girl goes from as pale as Carrot Top to more brown than Beyonce and it disturbs me all of the time. It is annoying and disgusting and disrespectful but it is also flattering in a way. They want to be just like us. :)
One of my favorite things is a black man's voice. It is so distinct and powerful, and warm. I can be in another room and hear a black man's voice on a commercial and it makes me smile to hear it on the t.v. and be able to point out that it is a black man talking. We are also distinct in the ways that have been appropriated by are counter race. Our facial and body features are even distinct.
All of these things that I mentioned on the negative side can be extremely overwhelming to do day in and day out; but, because of our resiliency, faith, and strength, we handle it with style and grace. Think about our history and all that we have endured...the beatings, the theft, and so much more. We are a strong people. I was talking to a client the other day and she was telling me that all of the black people in her apartment have had their tires flattened, "nigger being written on their windows with feces, and being terrorized and tortured, and the apartments and the police officers called to investigate saying that they could not do anything even though they knew who was doing it. She broke down in my office about how long she has been enduring this and I almost broke down with her. In 2016 these types of things are still happening. But, she made it through. I helped her get into a new apartment and she just couldn't stop saying how grateful she was and that she was so happy that she made it through it even though she wanted to give up so many times. There is so much that has been done to our people but in the words of Antwone Fisher, "[we're] still standing, [we're] still strong.
I do not claim to own any of the photos used in this post. These are simply for illustration only.