(Sigh) It took me a while to gather the words and energy to write this post. Actually it took well over 3 weeks. I said I would write it and then I talked myself out of it. I truly believe in living by not speaking unless I have my words together and not to speak out of anger, so it was important to honor that for myself. It wasn’t until a few days ago that I had the strength to type words that made sense. While the human emotions are as raw as they were on Day 1, I am at a point where I can collect words that make sense and not toss my computer across the room or rant and ramble. I can speak from a place of experience, wisdom & as a Black woman in this country.
This post is going to be longer than my typical posts you’ll find written previously. It’s going to educate you. It’s going to give you a deeper look into who I am as a Black woman from my experiences. It’s going to make you uncomfortable.
If you’re white, I’m inviting you to the table to have this conversation. I ask that you sit & listen. I ask that you stay open and stay with me. I ask that you sit for the hard parts & digest it.
If you’re in, I mean all in, let’s set some boundaries this convo:
• This is written from my experience. Period. Not here for tone policing. I wrote it. I said it. Not here to add extra spoons of honey to the words to make it taste better.
• If it pains you to read it, keep reading anyway. It pains me to write it & live it daily. What I’m about to share is as real and raw as it can get.
• Whether it sounds hard or not, this is going to be uncomfortable. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Before you take a stand, you must first have a seat. If you’re still muted and your heart is open, let’s chat.
When the news broke about George Floyd, I shook my head and kept scrolling. “Again”, I thought. “Nah. Not again.” I saw the pain and anguish on his face as the header image and that was enough for me to immediately shut down. Shut down like unplugging all of the cords in a data room that helps keep everything functioning. I pray every year not to have to endure another killing of a black person, yet here we are again. After the last “again”, you hope and pray this would be it.
As the news continued to unfold, something was triggered within me like never before and I lost it. The rage I felt is one I’ve felt before, time & time again, but I never allow myself to feel it. That stinging feeling in the back of your throat as you fight back tears that make you want to swing at the air like Trey in the movie Boyz in da Hood came circling back. I felt this rage before with Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Trayvon Martin & countless others, but this one struck in a different way. Each and every incident stops me in my tracks, leaving me breathless, crying and I swallow that pain down as a Black woman & I keep it moving. I don’t talk about it in depth. I get mad, but I don’t feel it anymore. But not this time. Between Breonna Taylor & Amaud Arbery, that was enough. George Floyd tipped it over the edge and everything I had ever stuffed in my own personal life to mourning the unnecessary deaths sent me to deal with a cloud of suppressed emotions.
Here’s a look of the men women & children (one as young as 7 years old) who were killed along with legal outcomes listed. See here.
Lessons I’m learning, equipping my children, while giving myself grace
So here I am, a woman who has all this rage and anger in a moment of tension all around, COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the Black community at an alarming rate, we’ve been home for months & now more racism to deal with. Yet, I have to be a model for my children. A Godly model. I have two girls who look to me in every situation for what to do for everything and having it together – how do I model this well without tainting them with my anger? In certain situations, I would try to temper my tears so they won’t know anything because children don’t have to be exposed to every single thing.
But let’s be honest though: kids know when something is wrong with their parents.
My oldest could tell that something has been off with me. This time, instead of pretending to have it all together, I decided to be honest & explain my sadness to my 5 year old so she could understand it in kid form. That I was sad & hurt about Black people having their lives taken for no reason. I told her I was going to talk to her a little more about it where she could understand it fully and when I could articulate it well enough for her. She may not have had the details, but it was the truth. It was the beginning of a life-long conversation that, as a Black mother, you know you have to have with your children.
So on top of getting the truth, she also could see that Mommy doesn’t have to be strong everyday & allowing myself to process this pain.
The Strong Black Woman stereotype, which declares that we are strong, indestructible and can save the world, is causing Black women more stress & adverse health conditions. And I’m tired & tired of it. The cycle is stopping with me.
Read a more in depth manuscript: Superwoman Schema: African American Women’s Views on Stress, Strength, and Health
It’s going to take some time and work on my end. I’m still working and giving myself grace. Meeting with my therapist. Talking to trusted sources. I’m still pouring in myself with God’s love and word, but I’m also educating myself and equipping myself so I can understand how to navigate this entire thing better. This season is not by accident & it’s for a purpose and reason & I’m determined to be better coming out of it.
While others are “too scared” and “want to shelter their kids from the world”, as a Black parent, this is our reality and the conversations begin early for survival. We want innocence too. We want our children to be children as long as possible. However, the average age that a Black child will encounter racism is around the ages of 3-4, so sheltering is out the window for us.
It’s important for my children to see how to interact with people. How I speak about people who don’t look like us. How I speak about people behind closed doors. Who I invite in our home & do life with. How to model the kindness, love & Godliness I want to see in the world that ignores & hates me before I could ever utter a word because of the melanin in my skin. I can tell my kids all day to do something, but it’s not enough to tell them to do as you say, but do as YOU do.
I’ve listened to family members talk about going to segregated schools, which wasn’t that long ago. As a child, my mother & I were followed around in stores many times. I was taught to always get your items bagged and a receipt just in case someone thought you were stealing. If you are ever stopped by the police, here’s what you do. Don’t be too threatening. Yes sir. No sir. Don’t move too fast. Look people in the eye. Codeswitch because you don’t want to sound too Black. Don’t be too animated. Calm down the curls and the headwraps – it’s too much. Smile – make sure you smile so you can seem less threatening and pleasant. Blog about the things that people would want to read. Enunciate your words when speaking. Don’t be too loud. Never. Be. Angry. Work harder than everyone in the room – can’t take a break. Never “look” lazy & never be comfortable.
While I’m proclaiming to teach my children about how to be their authentic selves, I have to put a mask on every single day for survival. After you’ve chipped away at your authentic self long enough or have someone find fault with said authenticity, rebuilding takes intentionality, more energy and effort than you can imagine.
Tired yet? Me too. Keep reading.
If you’re still reading, great. I’m glad. I had so much more typed out, but frankly, I’m tired of typing this. Tired of pretending. Tired of stuffing my existence to make space for others who are uncomfortable. Tired of not being able to talk about race because “it’s not the polite thing to do”. Tired of the silence. Tired of listening to talks and messages from the ‘60’s & it still apply today.
Keeping this scripture close to my heart: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9
From a Black Square to Action
If you proclaimed that you were “on board with helping to dismantle racism”, or “tired of it too” and “our kids deserve better”, awesome. Buckle up – there’s hundreds of years of work to be done and if you’re a white person, this work is life-long. Tackling racism isn’t done in one short conversation or touting that you have Black friends and are nice to Black people. It’s not a nice vs. mean people issue. While you may understand oppression from a classism perspective, it’s still not the same as racism. Your privilege will always cover you in areas where I wouldn’t be considered – regardless of class.
If you have Black friends, here’s a tip: don’t ask what you can do anymore. If you were diagnosed with a rare form of a disease and your doctor wasn’t able to give you full details of it, you would immediately go home and research it. You would join threads and boards to talk to people with that same rare disease to understand it fully. You would immerse yourself with educating yourself so you could be articulate when speaking about that rare disease.
Understanding racism is no different.
If you have Black friends & you do life together (which is key), you should be having these conversations. It’s not going to be easy, but the more you do it, the less taboo the subject becomes. Just be aware that if your Black friends are not in a space to speak about it, or they set a boundary, please honor it. Everyone may not be in a space to discuss it at this time. This is trauma we’re dealing with as deep as on a molecular level.
Parenting tip: you can’t teach your children something you don’t understand on a deeper level. I’m serious. Listen to me. When you understand it, then you can teach it. You can’t teach algorithms and data subjects in math if you don’t understand the basics of math itself. When you understand it, you can model it for your children. When you can model it, then you can teach it. Children don’t do as you say, they do as you do. If you’re telling your child to diversify the friends they have, yet all of your friends that you do life with look, think and speak exactly the same way you do, your request will fall on deaf ears.
There are countless resources written by Black and white people that are available to you to equip you to understanding it. The days of letting guilt make you apologize over & over for “what my ancestors did” or simply not take any action, are over. If you’re taking the stand, that means doing the work consistently on your own & committing to it. Especially if you do life with Black people. This is not their issue – it’s yours too!
“Where do I start?”
If you take one tool from this entire post, please take this – this is the book you are looking for. This is it. As a black woman, I took the time to read this and it’s written by Robin DiAngelo, a white woman, who breaks down every single detail about racism and what white fragility is and it is absolutely spot on.
She tackles the following:
-What exactly is racism?
-Is reverse racism real?
-Is racism simply good people vs. bad people?
-Do you think racism means “old, white, southern & out of touch with the new ways of doing things?”
-If you have black friends and do life with black people, can you be racist?
-What is white privilege? Do you have it?
-Why do white people automatically get defensive when speaking about race?
-Why does everyone pull from the same exact script whenever racial incidents occur?
-Do you see race as an issue as a concern that you need to be involved with or is that just a problem for -people of color?
-If your kids say something racist, do you shush them or do you step in to correct them? Would you know how to correct them?
DiAngelo says she encounters a lot of “certitude from white people – they insist ‘Well, it’s not me’, or say ‘I’m doing my best, what do you want from me?’ ”. She defines this as white fragility – the inability of white people to tolerate racial stress. This, she says, leads to white people “weaponising [their] hurt feelings” and being indignant and defensive when confronted with racial inequality and injustice. This creates a climate where the suggestion or accusation of racism causes more outrage among white people than the racism itself. “And if nobody is racist,” she asks, “why is racism still America’s biggest problem? What are white people afraid they will lose by listening? What is so threatening about humility on this topic?”
What I’m Currently Reading or Re-Reading:
My hope & prayer through this season of heavy hearts is that THIS TIME, we can begin the journey of dismantling the roots of racism so history will stop repeating itself. Racism is not just mean, out of touch people. It’s deeper than that. Whether you’ve been “woke” from birth or waking up to the experiences of racism in America, it’s a journey we are all on.
If you’re ever wondering if things will get better in the world, it will. As Rihanna so eloquently put it: pull up. It’s time to educate yourselves and start doing this work too. It all has to start with YOU.
Do Some More…
Updated with more resources
A Kids Book About – Giving you $5 towards your purchase
Black Girls Who Need Support
Visit TherapyForBlackGirls.com to find a therapist in your area. You can also listen to the podcast here and reference the episodes for particular subject matter on race and racism.
Protesting & Ways You Can Help
If You Can’t Attend a Protest, Here’s How to Help in the Fight Against Racial Injustice