I grew up ignorant of the current plight of black people.
I thought we lived in a post-racist society. It was easy to maintain my naivety. I have a good amount of privilege in the Black community: two types, actually. I have economic class privilege and skin color privilege. I went to a good school/college, didn’t worry about food/housing, or violence in my neighborhood. People don’t lock their car doors or clutch their purses when I walk by the way they do for my husband.
My complexion confuses some people for some reason. Thanks to a long history of colorism, melanin-richer ladies have commented on how they initially weren’t sure about me—maybe weren’t sure if I was one of them or not. I never understood this, but I understand that history has ripped the community of Black women apart. We are struggling to pick up the pieces and come back together…
Regardless, I could embody naivety if I chose.
Sure, I knew on some level that my family was treated a little differently than everyone else. I knew about history: slavery and the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. But living in a nice house, with diverse neighbors, having mostly white friends, and attending one of the best public high schools in the state, you might think assimilating into American society is best. And associating too much with Black stuff is not a good idea.
I did for a time. A long time.
My rose-colored shades have been removed. They were removed more than ten years ago, but I was afraid.
I was scared to write about certain topics or post certain things on Facebook because employers could flag me as too Black. I’d be unemployable.
I chose to keep my opinions to myself for a long time because I wanted to assimilate, get a job, not look bad to my white friends, associates, and potential employers.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Certain narratives are acceptable. I operated in non-profit circles on and off for a few years. And within the non-profit world, education is key.
If we could just get Black kids to do well in school…If they could go to college… If they knew drugs were bad… if they knew xyz… if they spoke proper English… if they practiced safe sex… if they had access to tutors… if they pulled up their pants… if they dressed better… had a safe place to go after school…stopped killing each other…if they ate healthier… stopped committing crimes…stopped going to the club…stopped spending money on rims…gold chains…
I could go on and on… but the point is, if I step outside the narrative of what Black people are doing wrong—a narrative that places blame on white supremacy—I’ll make anyone who doesn’t agree with me uncomfortable. This leads to lost friends, lost job opportunities, etc.
These days, I wonder whose toes I may be stepping on. Who am I making uncomfortable? At the same time, I’m not sure I want anyone in my circle who is too uncomfortable to listen openly to what I have to say.
And I have mixed emotions about people like me. Apprehensive because you live in a white circle. Nervous to speak up because, in many ways, you’ve “made it.” I want to be frustrated, but I can’t be.
I want to see more work being done by the people who have made it. Sure, breaking glass ceilings is one type of work…but I don’t think we’ll ever prove we are good enough for America in its current state.
Not everyone wants to be an activist or wants to air their opinions about society online.
I’m not going to march in the streets (I can’t handle crowds during “pleasant” events).
I want to share my experience with people who may have had similar experiences. I want to connect with people who feel that their Black identity is complicated…with people who are conflicted about sharing their opinions and experiences. I’ve been there and I’m still working through it all.
Got anything you want to say? Hit me in the comments.