Well, what is it exactly?
It seems as if most of my life I have been held back. As a young girl, I never understood what that feeling was until I started getting older and seeing what was right and what was wrong.
Racism, discrimination, and prejudice have been a part of my whole life.
As I travelled the world, I was treated differently from country to country. Some countries the racism was silent and some more vocal. In Europe, I was treated decent for the most part, but often times there were a lot of stares. Sometimes there were whispers. And in some countries, I had no issues and met the most kind-hearted people: Iceland, Spain, Canada (i.e. my experiences do not dismiss another Black person’s story that may be different than mine).
The good news is that I cannot say I have ever had a bad encounter outside of my home country where I felt my life was in danger.
I always wanted and still sort of want to leave the US and live overseas so I can travel a lot more. People always asked me why and thought I was crazy and probably still do. And even though subtle stares make people feel uncomfortable, I took it as a compliment because I was looking good. “Take a picture” was my thought. But the reality of it is that I feel most comfortable and safest when I am not in America where I was born and raised.
The sad part is the stares and whispers will never make me feel any less than being called the n word…with the -er. I will never forget this day when we were grocery shopping in east Texas (2010) and an older White couple (male and female) were walking down the aisle. The woman said something about how surprised she was that we (n words) were allowed in the store.
I was furious and hurt to the core. Absolute disbelief. I will say that through the grace of God, we were able to safely leave the store with no law enforcement encounters.
A lot of my other encounters with racism occurred in the workplace, but that may be another blog post.
Unfortunately for Black people, what is normal for us is what we are taught: how to act, how to react, how not to react, how to maintain your facial expressions, how to speak, how to handle to being pulled over by a cop, etc. Our parents engrained so much into our brains simply because we are Black and that is the way it is. We grew up seeing neighbours, family, and friends being killed by the police with no repercussions so of course we were chanting “F*ck the police,” calling them pigs, etc. I can’t say this is right or the answer to the problems, but this is my reality.
There are so many things that I still think twice about doing. Even if I go out to a party or dinner, I want to know who is attending. I need to know if another Black person will be there because then I have a brother or sister with me. I do not think anyone who is not Black can understand that leaving your home is not a guarantee to return so ensuring an ally is there is most important to me.
And until last week, I was not even sure I had allies who were not Black with the exception of a few and that is a problem.
What took you so long to speak up? The thought keeps running through my head especially since we have been seeing this happen for years. But I challenge myself to focus on the now and what can be. There is so much potential if we keep doing what is right and being a voice for Black people. For our Black men. For our Black LGBTQ+ community. For our Black children. And especially our Black women. As Malcolm X said, “Black women are the most disrespected, neglected, and unprotected persons in America” and I unfortunately feel that with every fiber of my being.
I have had countless encounters with White people (specifically women) walking past me or bumping into me without a word. And if you know me then you know I am outspoken. It goes something like this:
“Oh! I didn’t see you.”
“Oh okay. I’m the only Black person here. How can you NOT see me?!”
I always notice when White people do not hold the door open for me or let me cross the street especially if I was walking behind a White person. Often times, the door slams or that car speeds up to avoid me.
It makes me feel small. Like a child.
When my father left when I was younger, I never understood why. I never understood what I did wrong. I never understood what was so bad about me. I never understood why he did not like me. I never understood why he did not love me…his baby girl…his only daughter.
I have forgiven my father and moved on and prayed for his heart. However the emptiness of not having a father in my life constantly haunts me as I think of how myself and my people are treated in America.
“Everybody wants to be Black until it is time to be Black.”
What did we do wrong? What is so bad about being Black? Why don’t they like Black people? Why don’t they love Black people? But they love our culture, our food, our curves, our lips, our “tanned” skin, our music, our hair, etc. What justifies the value of our lives? Why does it seem like our lives don’t matter? Black Lives Matter to us. But to everyone else?
At 28 years old, sometimes I feel like a child again. And it sucks. It is a tremendously awful feeling.
And that same feeling of being left behind comes back again as I would ask my mother where my father was.
Still being held back because of the colour of my skin as I watch the underqualified, non-degreed (and I have two 💁🏾♀️) White man or woman get the job or the promotion.
Still being held back as I watch the belligerent White woman cuss out peers and keep her job, but if I even sigh heavily, my boss wants to have a “check in” with me to see how I am doing. God forbid I am the angry Black woman.
Still being held back as I work on compensation reporting for the team and notice I am the lowest paid although I am the most educated and experienced. Sigh.
Still being held back around non-Black people because I cannot be myself without being misunderstood because our culture is “wrong” or “different” to them.
Ah. The list goes on. The damn list. The damn list should not even exist.
Freedom should exist. I mean, we are not slaves but often times we still feel trapped.
This photo was taken in British Columbia, Canada in 2017. In my entire life, I have never felt more free than in this moment.
As I write this in tears, I am reminded of the love from my God:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NIV
I am in no way a perfect Christian because even as I constantly reread the scripture, I still have uncertainty. It takes work to get there however I believe that I will be there in due time.
My tears do not compromise my strength. Our tears do not compromise our strength.
I serve an incredible God. And Lord, I pray for understanding, peace, positivity, and compassion over this nation as we continue the fight for justice. In Jesus name.
*plays Freedom by Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter featuring Kendrick Lamar*