I am tired. I am really fucking tired. I am emotionally, physically, and mentally worn out by the world that we are living in today. I spent all of this weekend immobile, barely able to walk around my apartment, because I couldn’t deal with all of the shit that is going on in this world. I didn’t know how to handle being a black woman in America. This burden is heavy, and I don’t want to carry it anymore. I can’t carry it anymore.
And yet, it gets heavier. I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, and saw this link. The KKK. Here in SF. And recruiting. In my fucking backyard. The girl who received their recruitment flyer literally lives an 8 minute walk from my house, in a spot that I pass by on a weekly basis. I’m terrified, and I’m angry. I’m so fucking angry. It is 2016 and this racist bullshit is still happening. White people still hate us so fucking much. Our lives mean nothing to you. It’s 2016, and it’s still controversial to even utter the phrase BLACK LIVES MATTER. People are scared to say those words. They are indifferent to what is happening around us.
I have spent the past few days upset, angry, crying (and y’all know I don’t cry), and only three non-POCs have been brave enough to reach out to me to ask me how I was feeling, to tweet words of support, to make sure I was okay. Because people are just so damn uncomfortable about race, that even something as simple as acknowledging the senseless loss of black life is impossible – it strikes fear in your heart. A lion gets hunted down in Africa and groups spring up decrying that loss of life, but a black man gets gunned down in front of his daughter and girlfriend for no apparent reason, and it’s crickets. This is what it means to be black in America. Especially to be black in white spaces in America. I don’t even expect anything from anyone anymore. Realizing that has been the hardest part of all of this, but I grew up with a mother who instilled in me the need to be self sufficient, and so I have never expected anything from anyone ever. I’m not going to start now.
Speaking of parents… I grew up with parents who wanted more for me than what they had. My father grew up poor and Puerto Rican in the 1960s in Manhattan. He lived in a closet. A motherfucking closet. He told me stories of finding dead rats in his shoes and having to just dump them out and put the shoes on because you only had one pair. It didn’t matter if a rat shat it in or died in it, you had to wear them. He joked about having to make sure you washed your face every night or else the cockroaches would eat the crumbs off of your mouth as you slept. I’m talking POOR. Actual, real poverty. College wasn’t even a dream for him – he’d have sooner envisioned landing on Jupiter. My mother, while better off than my father financially, was the only black girl at her high school. Let me repeat that. In 1960s America, right in the middle of one of the biggest periods of racial unrest this country has ever seen, my mother was the only black girl at her high school.
My parents did everything they could to give me the opportunities they never had, and I grew up with one message and one directive. My mother said to me on a weekly basis, “You have three strikes against you. You are black. You are a woman. You have a Hispanic last name. You will never be accepted. They will always be looking for a reason to remove you from whatever space you are in, to say that you a problem, to call you aggressive, to question your intelligence. Don’t give them a reason. You must be above reproach. It is not enough to be good. You must be the best.” And I’m not some anomaly in the black community, either. There are many of us running around with the same stories. It was even a plot point on Scandal. I don’t blame my parents. They did what they felt they had to do to equip their children to survive in a world that is stacked against them. Yet, I don’t think they imagined this reality. They thought it was just going to be about what kind of jobs we could get or what kind of money we could make. I think they thought that the era of lynchings and fearing for your life was over. And yet, here we are, in the good old U.S. of A, still second class citizens, even though we built this fucking country that you all love so much. My whole college career, I went to work 5 days a week in a building built by slaves – and now I have the privilege of paying Navient thousands of dollars of my hard earned money for my education – taught in buildings built on the backs of the men and women who share my blood. Ain’t that a bitch.
I have been a “good little black girl” my whole life. I was meek. I was subservient. I studied hard. I did everything right. I went to an Ivy League school and when I graduated, I got a job at the best company to work for in America. I made sure never to piss anyone off or ruffle any feathers. I was good at my job, but I never bragged about my work – I never sought accolades or recognition. I was just a good little worker bee, which is what I’ve been my whole fucking life. And now, I’m tired. Because it means absolutely nothing. Nothing. I could get gunned down by the SFPD tomorrow, and they’d tell you how I deserved it. How my life meant nothing because of the color of my skin. They’d find some photo of me drinking at a party or smoking pot or some info about all the sex education work I do, and they’d use it to call me a drunk or a whore or a stoner. They’d use it to rationalize why my life doesn’t matter. Why I’m 3/5 of a person. I did everything they told me to do, and yet I still fear for my life on a daily basis. I’m still living in a world where a terrorist organization – because make no mistake, that’s what the KKK was, is, and always will be – can make me feel unsafe in my own home. In a city that’s supposed to be this bastion of liberal thought, this open-minded oasis.
It’s all a sham. There is no safety. There is no solace. There is no peace. Not for wide-nosed, nappy haired, brown-skinned people like me. There is only the hope that the worst thing that happens in your life is that you have to monitor every movement you make to ensure you don’t offend some white person. That maybe you get called a racial slur a few dozen times in your life. That maybe you get passed up for that promotion because you “don’t fit in and don’t integrate with the group,” even though your work is impeccable. That’s the dream life I’m living towards. The reality, though, is that I face similar fears to the men and women that came before me. I fear that I will offend the wrong person and end up dead. I fear that no amount of guidance will prepare me for an encounter with the police. I fear that my life will be nothing but a hashtag that my brothers and sisters post for a few days on Twitter. I fear that maybe it’ll be *my* bullet riddled body on the front page of the New York Daily News. These are the fears that I have in 2016, nearly 50 years after my mother desegregated a Long Island high school.
I’m tired of neutralizing who I am so that white people will feel comfortable around me. I’m tired of being so caught up in succeeding in their world that I barely know who I am any more. I’m tired of being a good little black girl.
America – you’ve officially broken me. Which I’m pretty sure is what you’ve always intended to do to little black girls, anyway. So the system works exactly as it was designed. Congratu-fucking-lations.