A young black girl, maybe thirteen at the most, said this to me one day about her anxieties when interacting with white people. Constantly wanting to build her comfort level and let her know that she didn't have to fear them all, I had to get real about my own anxieties. I know exactly what it's like to struggle with keeping your hurt under wraps so that you're not proving the world right by being "angry" and black.
I've since lost touch with this child, and it eats away at me every day. I listened to so many negative words about her, and felt stuck. Why?
Because when you disagree, nine times out of ten it will be taken as you not wanting to associate with white people to create change.
The hyperaccountability attached to people of color is a heavy weight for us to carry around. You can't dissent too much, and it's constantly your responsibility to build bridges between the ones who look like you and those who don't. You leave conversations on cultural differences feeling more exhausted from your efforts, and as though nothing was actually heard at all. You feel secondary, and like a prop who can't be trusted to actually do the tough work. One of my lowest points was feeling as though I was part of something because my skin made the group look better.
I don't engage in Facebook discussions about my humanity any longer. Although it probably isn't the BEST method according to some, I choose to delete those people who have proven their bigotry time and time again. I have the right to tailor something as small as a digital friends list to reflect people who care for me at the deepest level. I choose to surround myself with those who are comfortable saying "I see your color, and realize how it affects your daily walk through life." So many times, I've witnessed my own boyfriend treated as something not even close to human. People who didn't even know him have accused him over the years of being everything from a drug dealer, to a thief, to even being abusive. All because of the way he LOOKS. It's like no matter how agreeable you are, you still can't win.
This year, I choose to start coming out on top. Will you?
Sometimes, all we want is your ear. For you to HEAR us.
But we can't even get that much.