Living in a Country Where Thousands Wish I Didn't

Being black in America means you live in a country you didn't choose but after generations, here you are. I love this country even though my family didn't wind up here because they were fleeing civil unrest and saw this as the land of the free. It is a perplexity; loving a place that doesn't fully support or love you back and yet here you are. If you're like me you have learned how to assimilate, how to cause as little waves as possible because let's face it, people that look like me are targeted for crimes and killed at an alarming rate so sometimes hiding in plan site is our only option.

1. Learning that it's okay to take up space. This means not apologizing to every white woman for simply looking in their direction. For not saying sorry to the white male because we reached for the same shopping cart at Costco. It is okay for me to exist. I don't need to try and blend into white America by straitening my hair or ignoring racial slurs when the are said in a large group for fear of being labeled "the angry black woman." I'm done laughing at jokes that make me uncomfortable even if that labels me as "the angry black woman who can't take a joke." These labels which can hurt me but more importantly will fufill stereotypes that will impact how others in my racial category are treated. If I am the one black person that my friends or coworkers know then how I act will impact every other interaction they have with another black petson so I better not pop off. But I'm not carrying that with me anymore. You should have more than one black friend.

2. It's okay to be angry. As a woman, as a black woman it's okay to get mad. Like Solange said, we have a lot to be mad about but society wants women to smile and they want black women to disappear so getting angry, even though it is extremely justified, isn't always safe. Guess what, I'm not holding my tongue any longer. If white supremacists can march under the guise of free speech as they spew hatred and fear then I get to be screaming-yelling-cursing-piping-hot mad.

3. Your education is not my job. If you're conflicted about how you should feel about Trump's statements regarding Charlottesville then you haven't been paying attention. Quit asking your POC friends to explain it to you. We weren't born with knowledge about social justice and racial inequality. We had to educate ourselves which wasn't easy when all the history books leave out things like native genocide and how long miscigenation was illegal in the south. We have a disgusting twisted history with race in America but you wouldn't know it by reading a history textbook. You gotta want to learn the truth cuz you have to search for it. It's not my job, because of the color of my skin, to explain to you how Trump's rhetoric during the campaign predicted the rise of white power groups across the country or how his statements condemning both sides is a racist condoning racist actions. Or how all lives matter is deplorable and easily a white nationalist slogan or how Nazi Germany took notes from the US before performing mass extermination. It's 2017 use the Internet.

4. My experience isn't universal. I get mad when women aren't feminist.  I'm like how can you hate yourself? But guess what? I have a masters degree, my education level puts me into a different category and to assume that everyone else has the critical thinking skills, have read the same books I have, grew up in a household where I was taught how to interact  when I encountered police so I would have a better chance of making it home, is ignorant. Being a feminist means acceptance and equality and I remind myself of that when I scroll through Facebook but please, so people stop losing their lives, educate yourselves! Read, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Read Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni to your kids. Read The Autobiography of Assata Shakur. Watch movies like, Get Out and Detroit. Read about the Rodney King Riots. Ask yourself, if a person with your skin color was brutality beaten by police and it was filmed and the officers involved got off without any repurcissions, ask yourself how safe you would feel when red and blue lights flashed in your rearview mirror? Ask yourself, if you attended UVA, as the first in your family to attend college and suddenly the KKK was marching on your campus and everyone said, "it's okay it's free speech" how safe would you feel going back to class?

Empathy and compassion will save us all but if you never look outside yourself and you continue to assume that your experience is possible for everyone you will never understand why we scream black lives matter. You will never understand why the Civil Rights Movement was just the beginning. You will never understand why we cringe when you say get over it or, that's the south that's not us.