I love being Black. There exists in our community a collective unconscious which, in my opinion, is second to none. Don't believe me? Ask any twenty, thirty or even forty-something what show they never missed on Saturday morning.
Soul Train. RIP Don Cornelius.
As fun as it is to sit around and recount the days of our youth; as inspiring as it is to observe Black History Month, celebrating the achievements of our forefathers and present-day leaders, there is something else that binds us together:
You never forget the first time you were targeted based simply on the color of your skin.
I was in kindergarten, playing with my peers in the sandbox. One of my classmates looked me in the eye and said: "My mommy said that you're a n*gger." Even though I was only four at the time, I knew that word wasn't right. I did not like the way it made my heart feel, nor the waves of anger that washed over me.
Unfortunately, I have felt that feeling more than a few times in my twenty-nine years. There was the time a university representative was quoted as saying "there aren't enough of you people on campus to observe Martin Luther King Day." Or the day I was dragged out of the music store and searched because, according to the security guard, I had been seen stealing from Eddie Bauer.
Of course, my favorite has been workplace racism, where people assume you only got the job because of affirmative action. You are officially the spokesperson for the entire African-American community, so you better have a good answer as to why our names are hard to pronounce (SN: if you can't pronounce Kayla, I don't know what to tell you) or where they can obtain the official copy of President Obama's birth certificate. And if you have a complaint, it's not really valid. You're just pulling the race card.
I'm strong. I know that who I am is so much more than my melanin. My whole life has been about defying stereotypes and breaking boundaries. But every time I hear those racially-motivated words, I'm drawn back to the sandbox.
And I hurt.
Is racism here to stay? I hope not. I am looking forward to the day when no one ever has to experience that all too familiar whirlwind of shame, betrayal and anger. But until then, I have learned how to cope with racism. You might want to get a pen and write this down so you don't forget.
I will inform with my words, not retaliate with my fists.
I will vote in every election. My voice will be heard.
I will continue to teach the next generation that mediocrity is never enough...not when extraordinary is within your reach.
I will not perpetuate the cycle by discriminating against others.
I will not abide in fear.
I will forgive.
I will pray that God helps us to see one another as He sees us:
Red and yellow
Black and white
All are precious in His sight
If you want to, you can understand.