To my people, I am sorry.
I speak to those of all heritage. Not just to black or white, but to ALL.
I want to apologize for confusing you with my internal conflicts, the complex I didn’t realize existed until about a year ago in an exchange with an elderly customer.
“Excuse me ma’am,” the woman said at the top of her lungs. Assuming she had poor hearing, I inched closer to her to reply, “Yes ma’am what’s going on?” “Well I was looking for your manager,” she said. “Okay which one in particular?”
“You know, the colored one.”
I stared into her eyes of no remorse or even awareness that, for one, no one says that anymore, and, two, it’s not okay. I stood there in awe before I, “….you know, colored, like you. ”
Oh, she was really serious. Alright. “You mean black? If so, there are quite a few of us here.” Heart racing, blood boiling, I walked quickly over to the nearest phone to access the loud speaker and beckoned this lovely lady to follow.
“COLORED MANAGERS TO DRESSES PLEASE. COLORED MANAGERS TO DRESSES.”
I glared at her. She smiled in approval. Surely, the store manager rushes over, burning a hole in my face with her disbelief. “Yes, this woman was looking for the colored manager.”
Alright so I didn’t actually get to announce that. I only got to say: “[Name] to dresses please.” I had the pleasure of enduring her questions about us coloreds: my hair, why I was so skinny, why my hair wasn’t straightened like the majority of the girls in the vicinity. Anyway, I called my dad immediately after work to tell him about the ordeal. He chuckled at my story.
“Baby girl, Is this the first time you’ve heard that? She was old huh? That’s just how it is, don’t let it get to you.”
It was then, I realized my silence. I was made so very aware of my skin in that moment. It wasn’t the first time I heard something like that from an elderly majority. I had an impeccable ability to pretend that it meant nothing to me.
All this time I have said nothing.
I grew up in a fairly diverse area. I knew I was unique and I embraced it. I was blessed to be around people of all shades. At the end of my 5th grade year at Epps Island Elementary. I had to move to the south side to Dowling Middle School, where I experience a giant culture shock. Suddenly, I became “that skinny light-skinned girl with good hair”. I was too skinny, too smart, and to proper. This made people uncomfortable and I didn’t understand why. I struggled to find a balance and abandoned my true self to fit in with those in my culture, even still I was not good enough.
For this I am sorry.
My people, I am not the friend who grants you racism immunity. “I have a black friend….” I will not flatten my fro to avoid scaring you. I will no longer hide my frustration with the justice system. I told myself Sandra Bland was a coincidence. Eric Garner was a coincidence…countless others were all coincidences. I have told you that it was nonsense. I should have corrected you when you said,”but you’re not really black.” For that, I am sorry. Obama’s presidency has not suppressed or ended racism, but has, in fact, magnified it. Trump has given people permission to hobble out of their racist closets to speak hateful thoughts and call people “sensitive” for having a problem with it.
Black jokes are not funny anymore.
There are bad apples out there in every color, but they don’t all need a hashtag. My people, you can’t be offended because a hashtag was not made for you. #Blacklivesmatter because they actually don’t matter to many, but this in no way diminishes your value. My people, no one is personally attacking you. I am simply asking you to take responsibility. Use your privilege to stand up to your racist uncles or aunties. Be kind. Be selfless. Be attentive.
To my people. White jokes aren’t funny anymore. You don’t have to tear down one to lift up another. We have a duty, a responsibility to inform our people, all people, the ways of the world. We have a responsibility to improve our image to those who doubt us. Success speaks louder than disorganized protests and riots. I have sat, silent, in fear of being rejected again, by my people. For that, I am sorry. Change begins within. Do not oppress or limit yourself; society does a great job of that.
For the record…I don’t “talk white”, I speak English.
To my people , I love you all. None of us are perfect. No one is attacking you personally, I am only asking you to take responsibility. Uplift our women, our men, our baby girls and boys. Enlighten the parents who segregate and embrace prejudice mindset. Spread the love.
There is a uniqueness in every culture. It’s a beautiful thing when you can accept that.
HONOR Alton Sterling and Philando Castile June 2016
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
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