I knew I was black but tied no more significance to that fact than one would give a freckle, a mole, or right and left handedness. My black was merely a circumstantial genetic effect. I was not taught that this casing, this covering, this epidermis should somehow color potential or limit possibility. My black was a noun used to characterize pigmentation, not an adjective given to describe my inferior status.
It wasn’t until my schoolyard playmate could no longer run with me because her Daddy said my people were “stupid and lazy,” not until my childhood friend said I couldn’t attend her birthday party because black people weren’t allowed in her home, it wasn’t ‘til my family bought a house and watched, one by one, our neighbors move away because they simply couldn’t bear to live in proximity to our apparent deplorable offensiveness, not until I experienced my humanity through all of this did I come to understand my Black as an indictment.
I entertained the thought that perhaps my Black committed a crime and framed me as the culprit. I accepted my sentence and set out to reduce my time with good behavior. I'd disarm them with character, careful not to let my attire and vernacular further criminalize me. Convinced that education would make it okay I enlisted the help of Sallie Mae to rescue me from this prison, and she did elevate me from the toils of hard labor to a friendlier, more pleasant form of servitude.
Still, there is no escaping the structural institutionalized racism that informs every transaction that we negotiate every day. A reality doubly upsetting for those conscious enough to recognize the depth in the hypocrisy of a system that needles and jabs, desecrates and humiliates, then blames the victim when he retaliates; characterizing him as savage and barbaric, then using these labels to continue the cycle of brutality.This is the rage that churns and boils and bubbles just below the surface ready to explode.
It is the amalgamation of tension and hope, frustration and dreams. The cries of a generation who have inherited civil rights but denied the benefit of our full humanity. We have wept at the spectacle of our elderly abandoned on New Orleans rooftops, literally drowning in our country’s indifference. We’ve reaped unprecedented economic and educational gains, while watching helplessly from our newly realized affluence as our boys and men are murdered in cold blood, and blamed for their own massacre. We shed tears of joy at the swearing in of our native son, to the highest office in the land, only to witness that even he is esteemed as nothing more than a “subhuman mongrel” by an establishment built on hate.
What you have here is the rage of a generation who has seen the “promised land” but is disenchanted with the promise. We have come to realize now, that we can’t make them love us. We can’t change their mind. We can’t place our collective voices in a high enough octave disarm preconceived notions. Perceptions are too deeply embedded, the brainwashing too penetrating for kindness to overcome and we're tired of begging forgiveness of a crime we didn’t commit and we will no longer passively ignore genocide to avoid the unspoken consequence of playing the race card we were dealt but we will demand the same basic inalienable rights afforded our counterparts, because neither we nor they created the institutionalized benefit or burden of our pigmentation. We were simply born into a nation that has yet to resolve its issues; consequently forcing this dysfunction upon us.
I may not condone but I do understand the tantrum of the illegitimate son who has worried and toiled and prayed and sung, now demanding his rightful paternity. Grown weary of begging for love, he is resorting now to commanding attention.
Still, there is hope in the faces throughout the crowd. I hear you, you're shouting just as loud that you're equally fed up with this hypocrisy, and I pray we possess the integrity they lack. I pray we charge forward and never look back because this racial baggage is now ours to unpack, as we all redefine what it means to be Black.
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