The Weight

I pulled in to Nazareth, I was feelin’ ’bout a half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
Hey mister, can you tell me where a girl might find a bed (can you tell me)
He just grinned and shook my hand, no was all he said

-Aretha Franklin, ‘The Weight’

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted lately, it’s because I’ve been feeling the weight.

An unarmed Black man was murdered by a police officer in his own apartment.

Brett Kavanaugh will likely become part of the Supreme Court.

Wisconsin, where I live, is slowly recovering from historic flooding that destroyed many structures and even killed someone.

The White House is in chaos.

As a Black woman in America, getting through each day lately has been utterly exhausting.  Watching the news makes me so anxious, but I can’t not watch–I need to know how close to oblivion we are getting.  Unfortunately, we are inching closer and closer every day.

The weight is bearing down on me.  It’s bearing down on a lot of us.

But I can’t let it take me out.  We can’t let it bring us down.

We have to continue to help and love each other, regardless of what we look like or how much money we have or where we’re from.

We have to fight back against those trying to tear apart our country with racism and discrimination.

We have to keep moving forward.

Yes, I’m still feeling the weight.  The struggle to make it through each day is still very real.  But I like to think that my muscles are getting stronger.  I’m trying to find something positive in each day to keep me moving forward.

I hope you are too.

 

 

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Mistaken Identity

A few weeks ago, some of my neighbors stopped by my house to return some mail that had been mistakenly delivered to them instead of me.  I rarely get unannounced visitors, so I curiously approached the door–perhaps it was a teenager doing a fund raiser or a friend who happened to be in the neighborhood.

I opened the door, said hello.  A white man and woman stood on my stoop.  Their faces quickly went from placid to surprised.

“Are YOU…?”

“Yes, sir; this is my home.  How can I help you?”

A quick explanation of the mail mishap and they were gone, leaving me with a Women’s Health magazine and feelings of resignation.

This interaction was, unfortunately, not a first for me.  People have been surprised at my Blackness more times than I can count.  Perhaps it’s the unassuming first name.  Or maybe the lack of accent–my extensive public speaking background nipped that in the bud real quick.

But multiple times in my life, I’ve spoken to someone on the phone and heard a shocked, pleased, or even disappointed exclamation of “I didn’t know you were Black!” during our first in-person meeting.  Or gotten a look of confusion in a doctor’s waiting room when I stand after my name is called.  Each time, I roll my eyes and add the interaction to the list of acts of subtle racism thrown my way.

Why do people live with stereotypes–usually negative–of what Blackness is?  Why, after meeting me in person, do people feel the need to remark on how “articulate” I am?  Or how I’m “not what they expected?”  Most people probably don’t even realize what they’re doing–and they definitely wouldn’t call it being racist.  However, stereotypes about Black people are so deeply ingrained that most of the population doesn’t even recognize them unless they are explicitly pointed out.

Sometimes, the stereotypes have terrifying–even deadly–repercussions.  A Black woman was held at gunpoint because a white neighbor thought she was breaking into her own apartment. Luckily, this woman wasn’t injured or killed.

…However, this Black man wasn’t so lucky.

Neither was this Black woman.

For those who continue to mistakenly believe that we live in a post-racial society, look around you.  Look at your own actions.  Scrutinize your reactions to and interactions with people of color.  You don’t have to wear a white hood, rep the Confederate flag, or say the n-word to be a racist.  You don’t have to be a billionaire raised with the finest of things to have privilege.  Remember this each time you open your front door and the person on the other side acts like you belong there.

Beyond the Moment

Last night, my boyfriend and I went to see 12 Years a Slave. If you haven’t heard about based on a true story film, please navigate to the Google immediately and commence searching.

Chiwetel Ejiofor shows us the pain and anguish of Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery. Based on a true story, the film displays the race-divided South with brilliant clarity. It reminds us of what was.

And here we are. Things thought absolutely impossible aren’t even an afterthought. Of course we should vote, and own property, and go to school together. Of course we are human.

But still exists the stereotyping, profiling. Suspicion. Blackface. We are better, but not best. 12 Years a Slave serves as a great reminder to keep the past in the past and always look beyond what works in the moment.