Sometimes it’s hard to be objective through this colored lens that I view the world from. I’m not talking rose-colored lenses either. I’m talking about seeing the world in black and white. Mostly, how I as a black person get treated by a white world.
I often give the world the benefit of the doubt and assume that I will be treated fairly and equally. But that’s a lie. Or more like a hope. My general assumption is that the world views me through a stereotypical lens and I do everything in my power to defy it.
I can’t help but view the world this way, but sometimes it makes your vision cloudy. Today when I went into a dressing room at a store, the attendant needed to count my articles of clothing to give me a number. She took each of the items out of my hand to count them and then gave me my number. But right before that she counted my partners clothing items without taking them from her. She just lifted the hangers.
Now, my partner who is white thought she did that to me because of the way I was hanging the clothes over my forearm. So I let it go, but my gut felt like it was more racial bias, albeit unconscious. I do not like feeling targeted, but I also don’t like to walk through the world naive either.
There was a video on Facebook today with people talking about the first time they realized they were black. And it made me start to think about my first time. It was when my brother and I were visiting my grandparents in rural Pennsylvania. My brother and I went to the park, a park we had frequented many times before. I think I was like 8 and my brother was probably 13. We were the only black kids at this park ever, but we played fine with the other white kids.
Well, on this one particular day, some kid called us the n-word. My brother was ready to fight, but truth be told he was a lousy fighter, and I was outnumbered so I just told him to come on and we left.
When we got back to our grandparents’ house, we told them the story—and to our amazement, they didn’t really say anything. They were neither shocked nor comforting. And this incensed us. How could they not even react?
As an adult I later realized they grew up in a time where being treated like a seventh class citizen was nothing new, but for us, it was earth shattering. To feel the sting of that word at that age is like the worst blow you can possibly imagine.
After that point, I was hyper aware that I was black and was considered less than. And it still plays out today with senseless killing of our black men and women just for the color of their skin. The weight of race on people of color, particularly black people and its ugly history in this country feels like a cloak worn in the middle of a fire. It’s suffocating.
But what’s heartening is that we as black people still innovate and create on a level that never ceases to amaze me. Our culture is probably more appropriated than any other with no recognition or admission of theft and yet still we rise—moving forward to live—and fight—another day.
Although the cloak is heavy and the lenses sometimes foggy, and it feels like the world makes it its number 1 priority to destroy you, I would not trade this experience in this rich, brown skin for anything in the world. I feel honored to be able to represent my culture and add to it in whatever way I can.