If you think the world is “post-racial”, please stop reading now. If you have read From Slavery to Freedom, keep reading…
I am Black. I am short. I have deeply pigmented, dark skin. I have kinky hair that curls for only as long as it is wet. I am a woman with family that came to America both in chains and as immigrants.
There is nothing ambiguous about what you see when you see me.
If my skin offends you, please do not take it out on me. It was not my intention to make you feel uncomfortable with the amount of melanin my keratinocytes hold on to after being released from the melanocytes in my epidermis. It was also not my intent to have all of these hydrogen bonds causing my hair to curl and kink as tightly as it does.
I am very sorry that you felt so uncomfortable with me living near you that you have
- Tried breaking down the door of my condo in which I paid a mortgage,
- Called police on me because you did not realize I lived there [or maybe you just felt I was “up to no good”] and
- Released dogs to brutally attack me and terrorize me as I walked back to my front door after checking my mail.
Needless to say I am very sorry about number 3 (those bites are still healing).
It seems to me that I am not just a woman of color. Perhaps I am seen as too deeply colored. What is it about my presence and my life that is a threat to yours?
Why is it that when I arrived for the interview, you suddenly needed a research article in addition to my CV? [If you would have told me to bring an article, I could have given you what you needed. After all, it was only for tutoring middle and high school students.]
Why is it that you continue to assume I am not a citizen?
Where did you hear that I was Muslim? Because I am a Christian with (close) friends who are of the Islamic faith?
Why do you continue to say that I look like a “little girl” when I see a woman in her mid-thirties staring back at me in the mirror each morning as I work out the stiffness in my joints.
And, honestly, if you do not trust me enough to create my own materials to instruct my students in a subject that I have been studying and teaching for over twelve years, then why am I even listed on the course as the instructor of record. Why must I continue to correct a full-time instructor’s errors in the science, yet remain an adjunct? Why must I prove to students at the beginning of each semester that I am a real instructor with real degrees from real schools? Better yet, why do I continue to have to prove it to you, my colleagues?
I am sorry for this post-racial rant. We are not supposed to speak of these things. Yet, these are the many “micro aggressions” that have left me with macro exhaustion. The exclusion of a person from a neighborhood or shopping experience based solely on their race strips us all of the dignity and the rights inherent in citizenship. Calling emergency personnel on law-abiding citizens who are simply going about their lives, yet happen to be doing so with more melanin is the result of tiered citizenship status. It is the idea that some of us are just not quite as equal as others. It is the idea that there are hyphenated Americans. It is the belief that I, born in America to American parents, with American grandparents, in an American state and delivered in an American hospital, am not a REAL American (and yet, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments took care of this…). This deep flaw in our foundation that we continue to suppress and patch with ‘conversations’ and ‘dialogue’ is too large to ignore. We have come too far to allow the dialogue to be continuously dominated by hatred and misinformation. Counterfeit versions of the journey from slavery to freedom will lead us backwards as a country (I’m looking at you, Kanye).
I am a short, petite, geeky science instructor who happens be a woman with dark skin with an Afro. When you see me, you will know I am Black. You will know that I have ancestors from The Continent.
But did you know I am really tired of trying to make you less afraid of me.
I am really tired of being invisible until suspected. I am really tired of being asked what HBCU stands for and why would I go to a school “with only Black people.” I am really tired of being asked what it was like growing up in the ghetto when I lived in a rural small town with chickens and livestock, then moved to the suburbs of a larger city. I am really tired of being asked if I am the only one in my family to have a college degree when my grandfather was an orthodontist and my grandmother was an educator with a master’s degree (and everyone else behind them has a BS/BA or above). I am really tired of the shock that you have when you find out my parents have been married for 35 years. I am really tired of feeling like I can’t answer my phone if it is in my purse when I am in your store. I am just so very tired of being afraid of you being afraid of me.
I am exhausted with the mask, the hate, and the unfounded fear. I can do nothing more to make you see me as more than a woman of deep color. I cannot make you see me as a human deserving of all rights.
I ask that you understand that I am not in a position of hating. I do not blame anyone who happens to look as you, share the same racial features as you or ethnicity as you do who has not done or said the hateful things you have. I am smart enough to know that not all think as you. Unfortunately, you happen to be the loudest voice at the moment. Your voice is drowning out all the progressive good into a whisper. The loudest voice has the privilege of being understood, and I hear you loud and clear.
And you and I both can’t afford to sleep on this.