On Being Black in America

Image: bustle.com
Article: Jayana

Being Black in America feels a lot like walking around with a hand wrapped around your throat and knowing that any word could very well be your last. Being Black in America feels a lot like drowning in hundreds of years of slavery and having people blame you for not knowing how to swim. Being Black in America feels a lot like being target practice—feels a lot more like being prey rather than human. Being Black in America feels a lot like survival of the fittest—feels like not knowing what shade of melanin the cops will deem unworthy to live today.

When my mother had me sixteen years ago, I don’t think this is what she expected. I don’t think this is what she ever thought of bringing her little girl into. This world was set aflame with its hatred for things it does not like—for things it does not understand nor have the ability to control. I guess I should’ve realized that my skin color was one of those things. When I first realized that the game, “How Many Blacks Can You Shoot Before People Notice a Pattern?”, went by the name of “police brutality”—I was confused. I remember feeling this way and thinking: how did we end up living in a world where the people who were supposed to protect us, ended up killing us instead?

When this topic surfaced around my school, every white person looked at us as if we were to blame. As if it were our faults that our men in blue had painted targets on our backs. As it were our faults that they had made a sport out of killing our race. “This wouldn’t have happened,” they said, “if you weren’t such criminals.” I remember wanting to scream at them. I remember wanting to shout that that was not what being Black was about—that they had us all wrong. Being Black is not synonymous with being a criminal, or being uneducated, or being a thug. Being Black isn’t every negative thought you’ve had spoon-fed about us since birth. Being Black is about being soulful. Being Black is about being bold, and beautiful, and unique. Being Black is knowing that you could be the darkest thing in the room and still shine.

Since then, I have learned many lessons on how to survive in America while being both Black and a woman. Being Black in America means standing up for what you believe in—it means facing the Grim Reaper dressed in white collars and shining badges and appearing unafraid. Being a woman in America means realizing that your body belongs to no one else but yourself. Being a woman in America means doing bad all by yourself—means realizing that you do not need someone else to make you worth more than you already are. Being Black and a woman in America means beating the odds—it means continuing to thrive in everything you do, even with the fetishizing of your skin color or the prejudices against your race.

Loving my skin has not come easy, by any means. My journey for self-acceptance is not finished, but I want to thank everyone who has paved the way for Blacks today. I want to thank those who have sacrificed so much for this race. I want to thank my mom for her hips that broke and bled me into this Earth—for her confidence that she wore like a second skin. I want to thank my best friend for continuing to be bold and smart and unapologetic in a predominately white school filled with students who have been taught to hate her. Lastly, I want to thank those who have taught me what it truly means to be Black in America.