As a young girl, I was taught to not fuel the racists’ fire. This came in many forms. From the way I carried myself, to the way I interacted with others. I felt like I was under a microscope and in the public eye, I always had to be on my a-game. I always thought this way of life was unfair. My other friends didn’t have to worry about the things I worried about, but I never had to wonder why.
On the bus in Elementary school I remember not being on my a-game once. Apparently I had fallen asleep on the bus and when I got up there was a grease smudge where my head had been. I am not going to get into the explanation of grease in African-American hair, but this was the last time I ever let this happen. The response I got from other little kids was appalling. I was called gross, dirty and I was ashamed. Till this day if ever I’m sitting in a conference room and see a curly q (reference African-American hair), I quickly brush it off the table. This is because I am brought back to a time this exact thing happened to me and my hair was compared to someone’s pubic hair. I don’t know why people are so mean.
Even through all of these experiences, I had to take the high road. I didn’t even tell my parents about many of these situations because I believe I would have been asked how I responded and since I didn’t respond, this was a good thing and they were proud. Of course they could have spoken with my teachers, the teacher would speak to the student and then I would have been picked on more, but I wasn’t about that life. I believe this is where my sense of humor came from. Most of the individuals that said these mean things were not the brightest, so my sarcastic quips fell on deaf ears, but others appreciated it. At a very early age, even amongst all of these racist littles, there were some amazing people that were raised the right way and stood up for me.
This is why I am so very confused given the political climate right now. In case you missed it, this past weekend there was chaos in Charlottesville. Some background, in February of this year, the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue of Confederate war hero and cruel slave owner, Robert E. Lee. In July, the Robert E. Lee park was renamed Emancipation Park. Saturday, August 12th there was a “Unite The Right” white nationalist rally, which was planned in part to protest the removal of the statue. Yes, I said white nationalist rally and it’s 2017. Individuals from the University of Virginia were not happy that such a group would be allowed to hold a rally in their space, so as you do, they planned a protest. Crazy to think that violence would ensue from such a peaceful group of supremacists, but it sure did and unfortunately Heather Heyer who stood up for justice and what was right was killed.
After this event people have been up in arms from both sides. One side wants justice for Heather, they want a President that will stand up and call these racist, neo-nazi, hate-filled individuals out and tell them they are wrong and there is no place for that in our country. On the other side, they feel both groups are at fault and it’s silly to remove these monuments, we should just live in the present and stop focusing on the past. I actually saw this gem posted on someone’s wall, with a lot of surprising supporters commenting how they agree.
What these individuals do not understand is that we are not living in the past. These acts of hate are happening every day. Sure I am not a slave by definition, but I am still enslaved. African-Americans are losing their freedoms every day. Driving, shopping, every day is a struggle and to say that we are not still oppressed is laughable. I understand some people want to brush this under the rug, but we have to address it, we have to talk about it. You could say you also got picked on and you got over it, but my entire life I have been treated differently because of my race. Couldn’t go to certain people’s home as a child, couldn’t date certain people as I got older due to their parent’s views, passed by for positions for fear I wouldn’t be a cultural fit, assumptions are made about me, my child, my husband. It doesn’t stop!
If you don’t get it for any other reason, understand that I am hurting. I hurt very regularly. Do you not have compassion? Seeing a statue of someone who owned slaves is a reminder of my past and how I will never be equal. I do not know how it feels to be amongst the majority, black and a female (best of both worlds). If I was, I would try to use that privilege for good. I would love to get over it, leave it in the past, but how can I with all of these constant reminders? Confederate flags flying, you are supporting southern values that also represents slavery. These Neo-Nazi/KKK/white supremacists are trying to preserve a nation without me in it. They hate individuals like me for something that we can’t change about ourselves. Put yourself in my shoes and either shut your mouth or find it in your heart to support someone/a group/groups that is hurting.
I’m going to go back to my life of spreading love, being the best person I can be, but I am finally going to stop making excuses for people. You have the choice to be good or evil regardless of your past, education and circumstances. To me it seems much easier to be good, give it a try! I will continue to not fuel the fire, but I hope soon that fire burns out. It starts with you!