I am a Black Woman. Despite how I talk or where I live or who I’m friends with or the things I’m involved in, I am still a black woman. I deal with the issues of being black in America. I grew up with everything I could ask for. My parents have been married my entire life and they both went to college. None of that matters when people don’t know you. In reality, it shouldn’t matter at all. For me, though, these are qualifiers.
When someone sees my picture, they don’t see my past. They don’t know my family life. They see my skin color. If you are reading this and you know me, think about what you thought of me before you actually met me. If you don’t know me or have never met me think about your thoughts on me now and before you started reading this. Where did you first meet me? Would you have spoken to me in a restaurant restroom? If I said hello to you on the sidewalk would you have said it back? Did you clutch your bag when I strolled past you in the grocery store? Were you surprised when you saw me walk into Starbucks with my black leggings and Uggs ready to order my PSL? Were you surprised at my gold Starbucks card when I went to pay? Did my voice put you at ease because I sound a lot like you do? Do you find yourself wondering why I’m usually dressed so nice? Do you find yourself turning your nose up because you think my family is what it is because we were given something? Do you find yourself feeling good that you finally know someone “other”? Do you think you are the norm? When you read a book, what color do you assume the character to be? I bet she looks like you and doesn’t look like me.
You could easily replace every me or my in this post with any woman of color. I know you don’t want to believe that this is my reality but that doesn’t make it untrue. We want a lot of things in life. Wants don’t equal reality. Often it feels like non-POC (people of color) are in competition to see who has it worse. If you said to yourself, “well things aren’t easy for me either” then you’ve proven my point. This isn’t a competition. I am proud of who I am and you should be proud of who you are. We don’t need to fight for who has it worse. I know I grew up with more than a lot of white folks did. What I didn’t have was that skin color to get me entry into acceptance. When you’re white, people assume you’re supposed to be there. When you aren’t white, you have to qualify. Granted, white people mess up and can lose their spot. The point is that whiteness gives you a spot to begin with (and often gives you a little extra cushion).
I’m not asking for your sympathy. I’m doing pretty good if I do say so myself. Some people, not so much. What I am asking for is acknowledgment. Acknowledge that I and my fellow people of color might have issues that you don’t have or even understand. Acknowledge that you don’t know what it’s like to be black in America. You just don’t. That’s okay. Acknowledge that it’s not a competition to see who is the most disadvantaged. Acknowledge that we need to do better. Acknowledge that we CAN do better. I encourage you to ask questions here or elsewhere. Let’s talk about what we can do to better understand.