Racism is a very sensitive subject for those who don’t like to acknowledge that it exists and is very real in our world today. In my 27 years of life I have encountered way more racism than I’ve ever cared to face in this 21st-century world. Black people in this great nation of the United States have fought for decades to be viewed as equals to their white counterparts, and yet nothing has changed. The recent events over these past few weeks with the death of #GeorgeFloyd and the lack of accountability for those who have sworn to serve and protect our communities have sent outrage throughout the nation.
If you are not black, the truth is you simply won’t understand what it feels like for people to ignore every other quality about you, because all they see is the color of your skin. And seeing my color wouldn’t be problematic if they were not seeing my color as a negative or inferior characteristic of who I am.
I’ll never forget all the times I was followed around a beauty supply store or a convenience store, or all the times I received subpar customer service because a white, presumably more valuable customer was present. I’ll never erase the anger I felt the day my cousins and I were picking up a baby crib from the side of a donation bin in a store parking lot when a white woman pulled up to us and began lashing out hate words and threatening to call the police because we were “stealing.” (Meanwhile, the donation bin was for shoes and clothes only and the items had to be in the bin or they would not be picked up.)
I recall being treated DIFFERENTLY by guidance counselors and teachers because of my skin color. Even had a guidance counselor take me from all of my Honors courses into remedial courses when I transferred to the school.
I’ll never forget the rage I felt when I and my friends would get in the lunch line in high school only to return to our table with all our stuff knocked on the floor and all the chairs removed from our table. Our white peers did it to terrorize us. I’ve attended job interviews dressed to impressed and looking my best only for the interviewer to dismiss me completely once seeing I was a young, black woman. Imagine interviewing for jobs you over qualify for, only to be told you still aren’t good enough.
I’ve been overlooked for promotions and advancements because I AM A BLACK WOMAN. Many times, throughout my career, despite my education, experience, performance, and tenure being greater than my white counterparts, I was overlooked for advancements. I have seen white men advance in the company I previously worked for without education or qualification because the white Vice Presidents and Directors felt they had “potential.”
I even recall this one day when my sister and Godbrother came to pick me up from college for the weekend. We were all about 18 or 19 years old at the time. On the way home, we were pulled over by the police for no reason other than my Godbrother fit the description of someone they were looking for. Despite him verifying over and over again his identity, they held us on the side of the road for what felt like forever. It was as if they knew for sure it wasn’t him but because he fit the description and they wanted it to be him so badly, they were going to force it. We were young and scared college students. But in their eyes, we were dangerous, black, criminals.
Despite all the racism I’ve encountered in my life I know that other people’s opinions of me don’t define who I am. The unfortunate thing is that their opinions sometimes create obstacles that prevent us from propelling forward in life. In my life, I have decided that despite these obstacles, I will overcome them. As Maya Angelou put it, “STILL I RISE.” We are in a system that has in many ways set up for the black community to fail, but I’m determined I WON’T FAIL.
The protests and riots we see today are just the world processing years of hatred and grief. I don’t know what form of protesting is more effective or better than the other, but what I do know is that I applaud anyone who is speaking out against the systematic racism we deal with every day.
To my white brothers and sisters, you may not fully understand what it feels like, but that doesn’t mean you get a pass to be silent. Stand with the black community as we fight to be treated humanely in this world. It will create a more harmonious world for the future. Do it for the generations to come. We may not see the change we want to see right away, but I promise if we keep pushing for change, voting in elections, and advocating for the black community, a “change is gonna come.” Black people, your black is beautiful. Live up to it, own it, and protect it.
I’d love to hear your experiences with racism and how you’ve handled them. Leave it in the comments below.