I spent a lot of time convincing myself that if I did not react if I did not respond if I remained silent, complacent than I was better then all of them. More evolved.
I was wrong.
My silence was their victory. Their ability to make me believe that I was fighting against the status quo simply because I refused to engage in the conversation; simply because I was raised to think the problem with racism and equity in this country was because we spent too much time talking and not enough time moving forward.
Then I applied that same sort of thinking to something my husband has done to upset me. Whether a wound now that still fester or one that’s eventually scared over, I asked myself if I was ever able to move forward by merely ignoring my feelings. Was I ever okay when my grievances were dismissed without any regard?
The answer to that question, is of course, no.
So I had to ask myself, why is it then that I thought it would be a simple thing for my fellow brothers and sisters to do the same?
I was born in another country, but I was raised in this one. I started school in the United States at the age of 5, Kindergarten until grade 12– my senior year of high school.
The Constitution of the United States reads, “For liberty and justice for all,” but we all know talk is cheap and that is all Black people have experienced thus far in this nation, TALK.
The system taught me to believe that my silence was better than the ones crying out and protesting in the street. I was the better citizen because, contrary to what they taught, I was not the one in the trenches making a scene, causing a fuss, so I was better. I had outgrown “our ape” ways. I was not the thug, the hoodlum, or the uneducated Black woman causing a scene because I felt entitled; entitled to more than this country has paid.
Newsflash: I am entitled.
For the sweat, the tears, the blood that my ancestors that felt the sting of rejection, of hate. Ancestors, not all that far removed, like my Dad, born in 1958. A mere four years AFTER the United States government decided segregating White and Black children in schools was unconstitutional.
So before you try to invalidate your Black friends’ fears and their anger. Before you try to tell them that slavery and racism were so many years go.
Because it wasn’t that long ago, and it hasn’t stopped. Built into the very fabric of our society. It is on us now, to fully, utterly, and without prejudice, dismantle a system that still finds success by stepping on the backs of others.
We are not asking for handouts. We are not asking to be paid for the crimes of this country’s people; we are merely asking that we receive what was promised to us all those years ago: justice and equity, a platform, a place for us to finally be heard.
Our President ran on the platform of making America great again but for Black people America has never been great. For us, America just is.
The United States of America preaches against the indoctrination of an individual’s beliefs over another’s, and yet, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, my teachers taught me to believe Black people should be feared. Not overtly nor outright, but quietly, in ways that no one even knew was happening. I suspect the teachers did not know either.
I learned to fear my own race.
Let that sink in for a bit. Permeate your mind, so you have a better understanding of just how fucked up all this is.
Tolerate but fear.
This was the mantra I learned day in and day out. The way Black people are portrayed on television, unstable, angry, and prone to violence.
Now, here I am today, 34 years old, realizing it has taken me over two decades to embrace who I am. It has taken me even longer to embrace my community because I had learned to be ashamed of the color of my skin. I learned to be ashamed of them.
My name is Angie, and I proclaim proudly and loudly that I am African-American with roots tracing back to Mali, Nigeria, and Cameroon, Congo, and Bantu.
There will be no more tolerance. There will be no more fear. Not for my fellow brothers and sisters, fighting the same fight, dreaming the same dreams.
Instead, where there was confusion there will now be clarity, understanding, and a woman who can finally say, after nearly 35 years of life:
“I will no longer feel beholden to chose between my African-American heritage and my Filipino one.“
I am me.
Take me for what I am and if you can’t?
There’s the door. Don’t let it hit you on your way out.