I shouldn’t complain. I’ve seen pictures of my people in chains, with open sores oozing pus and gelatinous-blood across their backs, hanging from trees, bitten by dogs and spit upon as they simply tried to go to school. I’ve heard stories from my Grands and Greats about long struggles and short rewards. I know my history — not the one they teach in schools but the one without the omissions and missing the lies. So, I recognize that it is a bit absurd for me to complain because I am the living hope of those whose suffering was so extreme that it’s wondrous that they had any hope left.
Please, however, allow me to indulge myself for a moment. If I don’t periodically vent it feels as if anger will burn me from the inside until I melt into a misshapen puddle of candle wax that can no longer be lit, can no longer shine.
However, that shine, that light that all others are warmed by and attracted to is a naïve childhood fantasy. Presently, I would be satisfied to simply exist, unlit but solid, without examination or the withering heat of judgment. To simply exist, without scrutiny in our literal and figurative homes, is a fairytale for a Black America.
We, Black Americans, frequently must justify our presence and even feel pressured to apologize for our existence.
It’s not just exhausting; it’s dehumanizing.
D’Arreion Toles, I expect, looked at a few apartments before he picked out the one he particularly liked: one that was attractive, had a security system, and made him feel proud and accomplished. It was home. Hilary Mueller, however, blocked him from entering his home because of 2 things: entitlement and racism. As a White American, she smugly felt that she, who pays the same rent as Toles, had greater rights to that building; thought it was acceptable to question if he belonged there; and repeatedly insisted that he prove his tenancy and legitimacy. Mueller didn’t stop Toles because she was scared of him (a woman doesn’t block, approach, agitate, follow, and then get into an empty elevator with a man whom they feel are dangerous). She scrutinized him because Toles is Black.
Similarly, Yale student, Lolade Sinyonbola had the police called on her by a fellow classmate, Sarah Braasch, as she took a nap because Sarah didn’t think Lolade looked like she belonged at Yale. Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s stay in Rialto, California at an Air-bnb was ruined when a cop called the police on her because she didn’t fit the neighborhood’s normal profile. The examples are endless: the two Black men who were arrested after a Starbucks employee called the police on them; multiple Black politicians and campaign volunteers, fire fighters, department store customers, etc. have all had the police called on them by White people, and then forced to prove that they belong — in their own neighborhoods, schools and jobs – doing normal, everyday things.
Do you live here?
So, how did you end up here?
How’d you hear about this job?
May I help you?
Are you lost?
Do you have your id on you?
Each question says I don’t see you. I don’t see how nicely you are dressed, your education, your degrees, your upbringing, your experience, or you smile. I don’t hear how polite you are. All I see is your Blackness. To be reduced to one facet, to one characteristic is both denigrating and diminishing. This is particularly true when that one defining characteristic is viewed as criminal, subordinate and deviant by the masses.
Black people have been in this country since 1619 — 399 years. We built its industry, businesses and infrastructure. Our art, music and culture shape society, its priorities and its trends. We have been Supreme Court Justices, doctors, CEOs, police offices, teachers, secretaries, and the President of the United States. We go to school, shopping, plays, parks, movies. We work in restaurants, offices, on farms and factories, in coffee shops, fire departments, and government agencies. We live in houses, trailer parks, and apartment buildings. We are Americans; we are simply attempting to live, without constant scrutiny and harassment. We just want to live.
We just want to live.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more