A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Benefit of Humanity

Last night, I tossed and turned hoping that sleep would welcome me into its embrace. No such thing happened and I decided to write.

It’s hard to rest when your heart and spirit are weary. It is hard to breathe when it feels as though your chest has filled with water. I came to understand that my weariness was the realization that I could awake tomorrow to news of another “tragedy” and the feeling of it being hard to breathe was grief complicated beyond measure.

In Charleston, in a place of worship and refuge, nine Black American citizens gathered to safely study and learn of the grace and gift of God. They welcomed a stranger, as Jesus commanded many to do before them. They offered this stranger a place to sit and share and breathe and live. For an hour, this stranger did just that. And in an instant, the stranger became a terrorist.

Nine of those gathered within a holy space were murdered for merely existing.

As news of this tragedy spread along with the description of all victims and the sole perpetrator, I could see this to be a calculated measure spurred by the deeply entrenched notion of Black people as something to be feared.

Something. Not someone.

Like clockwork, media began to ask questions that I am sure are considered hard-hitting and cutting-edge to someone. Questions such as “What could these Black people have done to prevent this?” and “Should white people now be afraid of black people?” Absurd questions when you think of it because who would think that you would ever need to protect yourself in a place of worship that sits in a land built on freedom of worship?

Unfortunately, we then heard the questions, comments, and suggestions made about the man who murdered these innocent people. Things like “What would possess him to do this?” and “Maybe there is a mental illness that we don’t know about.” Most ludicrous of all were the statements “Allow him due process under the law.” and “Let’s not judge him in the court of public opinion.

This adult male, aged 21-years old at the time he coldly executed people in a calculated fashion, was given the benefit of his humanity.

Black Americans watched as many defended this many and simultaneously deflected the notion that it was a terrorist attack with racial motivations EVEN AFTER he admitted this to be the reason he murdered these people. Black Americans learned that there were people who knew about this plot for months but dismissed it as just “talk.”

Most offensively, Black Americans watched as the police apprehended him peacefully.

You see? Because of the benefit of his humanity, this man will see his day in court. And when he does, they will uphold it as evidence that the justice system is fair.

And so I write this as a reflection of what it means to be Black and a Woman and American and operate daily within a system that was built on the backs of my ancestors.

People do not care that I must grapple with my Black identity as I walk on streets named after Confederate generals who fought wholeheartedly to keep the institution of slavery as we learn about it in school in place (the North will have a day of reckoning behind their involvement in slavery).

No one bats an eye at the thought that we frequent financial institutions that descendants of slaveholders were allowed to open with wealth amassed while Black bodies were treated as chattel.

We are given weak apologies from some of the finest educational institutions in the world for their involvement in the dehumanization of Black people.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to move on and act peacefully in our grief as we point out that this is always about the fear of Blackness.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told these instances of terrorism that make the news are isolated incidents when in actuality they support the system of disenfranchisement upholding the status quo.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to erase our culture and identities as that is what makes us animals while being expected to swallow the offensive performance of Blackness executed by those who benefit from White Privilege.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are expected to go along with the “program” of acceptable outrage that demonstrates that you can be upset someone would wear fur but not that police will murder your children in the streets and let their blood run into the gutter.

Be quiet, Slave.

In the many institutions that make up the complex fabric of the United States of America, Black Bodies are seen as expendable, yet necessary, to move the wheel of systemic and systematic oppression forward. And we know the reality is we are not even viewed as human enough, worthy enough, to warrant outrage behind being slaughtered like animals. We are not seen as human enough to warrant the removal of offensive reminders of the past.

We are not seen as human.

The sad reality is that many who benefit from White Privilege view our mere existence as trivial. They do not see us as we walk down the street. They do not place money in our hands when we serve them in our jobs. They do not acknowledge the idea of personal space belonging to a Black person. And while there are a few brave allies willing to put their good names on the line for what it right, many of them unknowingly uphold the system that invaded our countries, the bodies of our mothers and fathers, and our psyches.

I sit with this heavy on my heart as I count down to another birthday, something the nine victims of an attack spurred by racism can no longer do. I have come to understand that my Blackness, as amazing and divinely inspired as it is, serves as an iron veil that would never allow me the benefit of humanity.

And so, I write their names below with the idea that it is just another reminder that they did matter. More than melanin and blood and bone, they were spirits who touched the lives of others. They were mothers who gave birth to children. They were fathers who molded the minds of those under them. They were neighbors. They worked. They loved. They hurt. They laughed. They cried. They welcomed strangers.

They prayed.

They were human. They were people. They will be remembered.

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41.

Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 54.

Myra Thompson, 59.

Tywanza Sanders, 26.

Ethel Lee Lance, 70.

Cynthia Hurd, 54.

Daniel L. Simmons, 74.

Suzy Jackson, 87.

Rev. DePayne Doctor, 49.

To #RachelDolezal and Her Defenders

For the past couple of days, I’ve tried to wrap my mind around why the #TransRacial (what does this even mean?) scandal centered on Rachel Dolezal truly and deeply offended me. In the beginning, I was one of the people that made the joke of “Well it’s possible. She looks like she has a little black in her.” I even began the fun of asking her questions about Black Culture on Twitter prior to the #AskRachel tag becoming huge. Even still, there were moments I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it bothered me so much.

That is, until I briefly saw a comment on Twitter, which suggested that Ms. Dolezal experienced a sexual trauma/assault which caused her to assume an identity other than the one she was born with.

That struck a nerve.

As a Black woman born a Black girl and raised in traditional gender/societal norms, I was deeply offended that once again the idea that Black women and girls are undesirable was once again at the center of someone’s caricature of us. Why else would someone fully assume an identity of the lowest on the societal totem pole if it were NOT to be seen as unattractive?

That stings.

Some Black women can be seen as smart (that’s okay – look at First Lady Michelle Obama). Some Black women can even be seen as semi-attractive (look at the men who covet women with the exotic look of Kimora Lee Simmons and Lisa Raye).

But never both though.

Perhaps what stings more is that there were people whom others respected with a major platform defending the work that Dolezal, a white woman pretending to be Black, offered in support of the Black community. Once again, White Mediocrity was allowed to be held up as something magical because “at least she did something” and “she’s doing more for us than we are doing for ourselves!”

To that, I wondered, “You’ve got to be kidding me?!?!”

Or even still, the idea that this White Woman with her Swedish last name and her blue eyes that she NEVER changed (light complexioned black woman privilege anyone?) deserved to be defended by Black men. “What’s the difference between her assuming a Black identity and Black women wearing blonde hair?” many asked.

Beside the fact that our undesirable, Black ass hair that we were born with still kinks naturally even though it may be dyed a different color? You are stupid. That’s the difference.

To see that some believed a White woman in her Fantastical Black Womanhood was worthy of defense because of her White virtue by people who look like me, talk like me, and were brought up in Black Culture like me (a naturally born Black Girl who was raised to become a Black Woman) was disheartening. Read that twice in case you don’t get it.

But then I realized this:

Her actions were both reprehensible and wholly irresponsible. Not only that, she lacked personal accountability and basic respect for a culture and people she claimed to care about and support. She is not an ally. She is not a magical being that has done remarkable work which has led to systemic change that will improve the lives of those of darker complexions.

She is regular, run-of-the-mill, “let’s go back to the good old days,” American white bread ass mediocrity.

She is not Black Excellence. Dare I even say it? She isn’t even Black Mediocrity. She has diminished the value of women who are already viewed as less than. And if you defended her and are present in the lives of young Black girls and women, you should be disappointed that you would even allow defense of this woman to escape your lips.