I lost my voice when it came to talking about you. In fact, each time I approached your swirling hate, I ran. Always running. Tucking you away, I put you in the junk filled closet, labeled “places I don’t want to face.” Yet you lingered there. Sometimes a small voice in the background, lately, you’ve been screaming at the top of your lungs. And in the convoluted confusion that is our society, we refuse to talk about you. Yet we continue to act out your hate.
The day I learned about you, my voice became silent to call you out. I became mute upon the awareness that my skin color put me in a category many in this world deem undesirable. As a timid eleven year old, moving to a new town, I learned about your accomplice in crime. The word nigger; a word created to slice through the heart and soul of countless humans. It’s funny how a single word could evoke so much horror, so much pain. Is it really hard to understand why so many have tried to redirect the dagger of your two syllable side kick? Can you not comprehend why people would make it their own, rounding off the edges to avoid deeper hurt?
I remember the moment I decided to succeed in life. When I decided to work hard, strive for excellence, functioning to overcome your perceived stereotypes and limits. I also remember when I stopped trying so desperately hard. Still, with rose-colored hope I silently ran around your hamster wheel, thinking once enough generations cycled through our society, your powers would dissipate. And do you know what that did? It continued your cycle of abuse. It took the responsibility off of myself to create change and instead load it onto the backs of others. And many of those backs still have gaping wounds. What I didn’t realize is that silencing voices has been your super power all along. Because by keeping people silent, your hate could fester and grow, duplicating more gremlins. And that cycle stops here.
You see, I realized I’d given you all my power by fearing your perceived strength. I closed up my heart, shut off emotions, hid my own self and gifts away in fear of your confined walls. Your systematic boxes. Boxes of illusion that shape who you say I’m supposed to be. Truth is, the only one who determines who I am is me.
This is the year of the sheep, and what I’ve learned by taking you out, staring into your eyes is that I was not made to be among your flock. To blend, huddled in the ring of mediocre conformity. No, at the core, that is not me. Because when I’m not a turtle, strategically living in a nurturing shell, I am a lion. Courageously roaring, unabashedly shaking out my untamed mane.
I will not allow you to poach my human spirit.
I will not burn my scalp to have straightened hair. I have learned that my curls spiral into infinity, like waves rolling in an endless sea of beauty.
I will not live within your boundaries, as I will not live within houses built with glass ceilings and walls. I have a hammer, skillfully swinging, unafraid to shatter your impermanent structures. Your systematic division.
I will no longer fear the division between my blackness and my whiteness. They are both my DNA, forever woven together in my soul. Pieces of me, united. Not opposing forces.
I will no longer accept your claims of acting too “white” or “not black enough”. Those are your stereotypes, not mine. They hold no meaning in the world view I live by.
I will not allow you to silence me. For too long your tight grip left me scared to be myself, afraid of not belonging, afraid of being unloved. By giving you that power, I left myself powerless. And I am. You are. Powerless no more.
You’ll notice, racism, that I speak in terms of myself. Because while there is a we the people, it all starts at looking within. And when I look at you, eyes wide open and unafraid, I can share that freedom with others.
And I am yours no longer.