As a black woman, I feel that I have been trying to delicately navigate white spaces all my life, in fear that I would say or do something seemingly out of place. Growing up, I always felt out of place. I was the only black person in my class for many years throughout elementary and middle school. Starting at a young age, society made me feel ostracized that I did not look like everyone else. I did not see TV shows, toy dolls, or cosmetics that were relatable to me as a young black girl. Going to a predominately white school all my life, I would rarely see an emphasis on black history other than the bare minimum. I was bullied for traits that were out of my control, such as my nappy hair and my african nose. I felt that I was not given the same opportunities as my white peers. I felt (and still feel) that I am constantly judged for the color of my skin before I even open my mouth to speak. I have felt uncomfortable in countless situations the minute I step into a room. I have to work 10 times harder that my white counterparts just to feel that I am making actual strides professionally. I have experienced a handful of micro-aggressions in the workplace and in public. I have experienced prejudice while shopping in stores. A word to all individuals who participate in the workforce: maintaining professionalism in the age of black death weighs insurmountably heavy on black people. We are expected to compartmentalize our feelings and show up to the workplace with smiles on our faces and appropriate attitudes. I feel these accounts very strongly and very regularly. I have always tried my best to put my best foot forward; not to please others, but simply to find peace in my life. I have been able to create my own opportunities because I have learned in order to get a seat at the table, I needed to run and grab it myself. I have done my best to push past the racial bias I have received my whole life, in order to advance my career, but to also fight for justice. I use my voice to put the unspoken conversations at the forefront of people’s minds. I did not allow the society I grew up to hinder my growth and my voice on my personal accounts as a black woman. I reclaimed the space.
At this point, we have all heard about the George Floyd case. As a recap, George Floyd cried out and pleaded for his life as a Minneapolis police officer took a knee to his neck, choking him to death in broad daylight, while 3 other cops put their full weight on his body and other cops stood by and witnessed the murder. This was an act of police brutality committed on an innocent, unarmed black man. This case is unfortunately not unique. Black people are being killed at the hands of the police every day. Of the countless incidences that have occurred recently, one that really hit my deepest nerve was the Breonna Taylor case. On March 13th, Louisville police barged into the wrong home on a search warrant and almost immediately starting firing gunshots in Breonna’s apartment, striking her at least 8 times. I believe that we are not saying her name enough and we can all do better to acknowledge the hate that was done to her, and speak to it in the same fury that we are talking about the other cases that have picked up large media attention. Breonna was 26; I am 25. Her and I are both black women. I completely empathize with this case more than anyone can start to imagine, because her and I share a background. The color of our skin continues to be the reason for oppression in the oppressor’s eyes. We are told that our lives are less than our white counterparts. To my fellow black brothers and sisters– I see you, I hear you, I stand with you and I fight with you. Say their names. Never forget them.
On June 2nd, also known as #BlackoutTuesday, I was moved by the sincere and abundant support and allyship I witnessed from my friends, acquaintances, and strangers, on social media and out in public. Regarding how #BlackoutTuesday came to existence, I want to take this time to say that I am at my wits end. I am emotionally exhausted. My people are crying for help, and our voices continue to be suppressed. In regards to the looting and vandalism events transpiring all across the country– keep in mind that these events are a small subset of the bigger picture. The majority of the public’s efforts have gone towards peaceful protesting. Property can be replaced; a life cannot be brought back. For non-black people: your call to action is to be in solidarity, but also to post content relating to uplifting black content, black education, black voices. Love black people the way you love black culture. Amplify the voices of the black community– its creators and activists. This is what speaks volumes. This shows you are standing with us.
For people who have been silent and/or on the fence about speaking out on this topic, I believe all it takes is to take a step back and evaluate your life, and the people who you surround yourself with. What do they value? What do they fight for? Do they interact with black people to any degree on a daily basis? Do you think about the interactions you’ve had with a black person, and note that, they are actually in fact not a completely different species and they are in fact people you should not be treating any differently than how you would treat yourself? I believe it is ever-so important to humanize this topic. That leads to a person seeing past themselves and their lives, and start to really invest in the lives of people who are being disregarded every day. This past week, I have had a few very honest and upfront conversations with some close friends regarding their silence. It was very moving to see them not make excuses, and instead immediately take action by educating themselves and spreading the word. If you consider me as a friend, I ask that you take this topic seriously, and remain fighting for justice. I want you to care enough to educate yourself. I want you to speak up even when it feels uncomfortable. I want you to have regular conversations with other people who have been silent, to help bring this issue to the forefront of everyone’s minds, and to keep this topic present. If you care about me, you will respect this, you will fight for me, and fight for people who look like me.
I have had encounters with the police outside concert venues, in public parks, and I have even been pulled over before. In all my encounters with the police, I have unfortunately always been fearful– fearful that I may be treated unfairly solely based on the color of my skin. When I am driving and I see a cop, my heart drops. When I am running by myself and see a cop, I go out of my way to avoid them. When I am leaving a bar, I make sure to present myself properly so that cops cannot use any of my verbals or non-verbals as a weapon against me. I constantly fear for my little sibling’s safety and well-being, and know that racial inequality and police brutality is negatively affecting their mental health and their views on the world. Do you feel this same anxiety and stress for these events? Check your white privilege. These event all culminate in the black person’s experience. We live with this every single day.
I have been moved to tears many times in the past week, with the shear thought of the current state of our nation. I want to take a microphone and scream. I want to share that this has left my heart broken, and my mental health in shambles. How can I hold back tears when my life is not considered as important solely because I am black? How can I sit with that and just take it???
Well, if you know even an ounce about me, you know that I cannot be silent on the issues that matter most to me. I cannot sit back when the lives of black people are being devalued on a daily basis. What I also will NEVER let stand, is anyone trying to dim my light and my progression. Black people being full human beings is in and of itself an act of resistance; our existence is resistance. As a black woman, I will continue to speak up on the issues that impact my people, so that everyone can come to understand the black struggle and why this needs to be an ongoing call to action. I have been hurting, really hurting this past week and how I can resist oppression is to speak up about my happiness and joy when it is present in my life, and not let anyone take that away from me.
Does the topic of racial injustice make you feel uncomfortable? Good. Continue to talk about it so that the discomfort dissipates. You should want to get involved and support the call to action. It is your responsibility to become more ethical than the society you grew up in. Here are resources for how you can get active:
Donate and support the following organizations, and also follow them on social media:
~NAACP Legal Defense Fund
~George Floyd Memorial Fund
~Minnesota Freedom Fund
~Reclaim The Block
~National Bail Out
~Black Lives Matter
~Black Visions Collective
~National Bail Fund Network
~The Innocent Project
~Run With Maud
~Justice for Breonna
Send emails, call, and text:
~Send an email to the Louisville Police Department to get justice for Breonna Taylor: search @didi_godwin on Instagram, link in her bio.
~Send an email to the Minneapolis Police Department to get justice for George Floyd: search @benlross on Instagram, link in his bio.
~Call Louisville Mayor (502-574-2003) to demand justice for Breonna Taylor.
~Call DA Mike Freeman in Minnesota (612-348-5550) to demand prosecution to: Derek Chauvin (Badge #1087) and Tou Thoa (badge #7162).
~Text FLOYD to 55-156
~Text JUSTICE to 66-8336
~Text ENOUGH to 55-156
Sign these petitions (all on change.org):
~Justice For George Floyd
~Justice for Brianna Taylor
~Justice for Ahmaud Arbery
~Educate yourself by reading books and articles centered on anti-racism, and listen to podcasts and watch documentaries centered around the black experience regarding racial inequality.
~Research and support the black businesses in your area, including shops, restaurants, etc.
~Learn about the black-run events in your community, and make it a point to attend some.
Make sure you are registered in your state’s primary election well as the presidential primary election in order to elect concrete and lasting change for years to come.
Treat this as an initial checklist. Once you have completed this list, know that the activism does not stop there. It is simply a catalyst to evoke a consistent stream of activism, from all of us. This topic will still matter tomorrow because black lives should matter today, tomorrow, the day after that, and the next. It is a continuous cycle of remembering and putting forth the effort to value these lives like our own and educate ourselves. We all have a role to play in this. We will fight until we have collectively made such a lasting impact that black lives will forever matter just as much as everyone else’s.
Check out my very personal video on this topic below:
Thank you for sharing your insight, intensity and power. This narrative is sobering but oh so essential. For those of us who are still struggling to find our voices within these trying times, you are lighting the way. We have to do better if there is to be a bright future for this country rather than a bleak one.