How do you fight when you don’t look Black?

Having two months between my posts isn’t really all that surprising. What prompted me to write this is, although in all honesty it shouldn’t be. I’ve watched this storm brewing my entire life. I’ve seen the small emissions of heat seep out through the fissures of our society, not unlike that of a volcano.

A lot has gone on in the past two months that has kept me from writing, not the least of which has been my crushing depression. But there will be other times to write of that. Right now there is something more important. Something that goes beyond me–beyond my generation. Something that has been 400 years in the making.

I am still not able to quite put into words the anger, pain, exhaustion–the anguish–I am feeling right now. This is the type of anguish that can only be experienced after hearing, “now is not the time”; “be the bigger person”; “things are getting better”; “find a more effective way”. Years of “I’m not racist but…”; “it’s not about race”; “I don’t see color”; “well what about Black on Black crime”. It’s the type of exhaustion after a lifetime of carrying the brunt of bridging two worlds because I “speak so eloquently” and I “hold [my]self so well” and I very clearly have an appearance that isn’t too off-putting to the more conservative audiences.

You see, I am mixed, biracial, Black and White–the product of what happens when love ascends racial boundaries, or when two people reject and abandon their Race. It really depends on who and when you ask. I have lived my entire life hearing that I’m not “Black enough”. That I don’t deserve Black scholarships. That White women are “stealing our Black men”. I have also been told I can’t be a Disney princess because I’m not white. That I got into a program because of Equal Opportunity. That I had bugs in my hair. Despite the prejudice I faced on both sides, I have always stood up for my Blackness. I have always been quick to correct people when they wrongly assume my race. I have always been proud to stand with my Black grandmother and father. I have always mentally and emotionally placed myself in the front lines with my brothers and sisters, even when I wasn’t always welcome there.

I have often been seen as the “safe” Black friend. I am a translator who can speak the language of both sides. I am the one my White friends can go to with questions about race and culture with the knowledge that they will receive patience instead of anger. I spent most of my college career trying to facilitate the conversation. I was a soldier for the cause. No, I was an ambassador. But friends, I am tired.

I am tired of having to calmly explain to my non-Black friends why their passive racism is not okay. I am tired of proving that I AM a Strong Black Woman. I am tired of having to fake a grin at a poorly thought out statement because I’m not that Black and if I become THAT Black, well, let’s just say I’m not exactly living in the mecca of diversity. I am tired of carrying the pain that is embedded in my culture’s psyche while simultaneously feeling like I have no right to claim it.

I AM DONE. I am staking my claim. I AM Black and I DO have that right. I am angry. And I am sick of curtailing that anger for the comfort of others. I am sick of crying silent, hidden tears. I am sick of seeing racist posts from so-called friends. I am sick of having to explain the systemic illness of racism. I am sick of saying that electing a Black president does NOT make America less racist. If anything the disgusting backlash he faced his entire presidency is proof of the exact opposite. This is why we need allies. Because we are tired. I AM TIRED.

So what does the fight look like when you don’t look Black? I think it depends on your journey. I KNOW that I face a certain level of privilege because of my light skin. But I was raised Black. That means that I know that I am less likely to be targeted by the police, but I still make sure my hands are completely visible and my movements are slow when I am pulled over. The fear I have in those moments is enough to bring me to tears. I don’t care that not all cops are bad. This is reality. This is cultural trauma. This is witnessing time and time again Blacks being disproportionately harassed by the police. This is wondering if next time it will be my friend, my soror, my father. This is also claiming my slave ancestry with pride. They did not fall then, and we will not fall now.

What does your fight look like? How long have you been in the trenches? Have you been battling side by side with me for decades? Or are you just coming into your own? If you are new to this battle, can you please just hold my torch for a moment? I am weary. I need a rest away from the fields. I need a sip from the drinking gourd. I need some time to let the whip lashes of oppression heal some. Once they’ve scabbed over, I can come back out to fight. And then? And then our people will fly.


4 thoughts on “How do you fight when you don’t look Black?

  1. Beautiful and sad at the same time. Beautiful because it’s so well written and sad because it is a reality many of my dear friends live in, I feel your pain, I’m not black and I am not white, I’m a Latina and I we share some of the same pain, but different. I totally support and applaud you for being so honest.

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    1. Thank you for your response. I think many of us feel this pain at a human level. It is important that we speak, because it is very clear that silence is not the answer.

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  2. My comment might be considered the prequel to your post. As such, it might be entitled “How do you fight when you don’t act Black?” I was born from two Black parents. Actually, when I was born my parents were “Negro.” When they were born, they were “colored.” I mention this only because the African-American moniker is the current flavor. (No wonder non-Blacks are confused.) I grew up in the “I’m Black and I’m proud!” era, and I believe that montra to my core. I also grew up hearing from my ethnic brethren that I talk White, as if speaking grammatically correctly was a Caucasian exclusive. I heard “endearing” compliments from other ethnicities like “you’re quite intelligent” and “you speak so well” [for a Black guy] as if intelligence and eloquence are elusive gifts for our swarthy ethnicities. Were not my BBQ ribs dowsed in the family sauce and complemented with Mama’s collard and mustard greens not authentic Creole tradition? I was an accomplished tap dancer, for goodness sake! I am a Black man. (Of course telling you I am Black tells you nothing about me save my race. But let’s keep it simple.)
    Now that you know a little of my history, this next point will be read differently. I have been stopped by police for walking while Black, riding a bicycle (“Is that stolen?”) while Black, and driving (“Why are you in this neighborhood?”) while Black. In every one of those moments, it became quite clear to me that my eloquence and my intelligence did not matter as much as my appearance. Perhaps the greatest lesson our police, politicians, teachers, and even protesters should first understand is that few people are ever the sum of their appearance. How do I keep from Hulking out on society angry from the injustices I’ve faced so far? Well, that’s my secret: I’m always angry. Seriously, I pick my battles and try to hold fast to my spiritual faith in the God whom I serve.
    How do I fight now? By raising my children to be proud of who they are. Know that in part you are Black. Know that Black is not defined by intelligence or eloquence but steeped in cultural pride. Know that your father is Black, proud to be Black, and embraces his Blackness as a blessing not to be overlooked. Know that if you see injustice, don’t be silent. Know that calm is prefered; but if you must get loud, shout eloquently and intelligently. If necessary, write a post that’s fit for the Times or Washington Post.
    I look forward to a country, nee world, where we can embrace our culture, recognize other cultures, and realize there is enough world where one doesn’t have to try and dominate the other. Wait, that would be heaven on earth. . . What’s wrong with that?
    By the way, this post on which I am commenting has undoubtedly made the author’s father proud as a courting peacock!

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