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What I Wish White People Understood About Being Black in America

What I Wish White People Understood About Being Black in America

I’d like to take you through the past few months for me. 

Typically, my resting heart rate is 80-85 BPM. This is when I’m properly caring for myself, eating well and exercising. It’s high, due to childhood trauma. Sleep is so-so.

The pandemic began. Quarantine set in. The sudden loss and lack of structure both amplified and illuminated my childhood trauma. Emotional flashbacks occur. Though all that happened in my childhood is over, I begin feeling it all as if it’s happening right now, even years removed from it. I’m now doing 18 hours of school from home and working 20-ish hours a week. My resting heart rate jumps up to 83- 85 BPM. I’m still eating well and exercising. Sleep is still so-so. 

Ahmaud Arbery

The video was on autoplay. By the time I realized what I was watching, it was too late. I couldn’t unsee it. I had to watch it 3 times to let it sink in. Ahmaud could’ve been my brothers. He could’ve been my future sons. It very well could still be my brothers. It could very well be my future sons. My already-present anxiety is exacerbated. Ahmaud’s birthday rolls around and I couldn’t will my feet to go past the threshold of my home, let alone run outside. Gyms are closed too. Fear. I’m only safe in my home.

My heart rate stays at a steady 85 BPM. I’m eating well and staying hydrated.

Breonna Taylor

She was murdered. Shot eight times.

In. Her. Sleep.

In. Her. Home.

Her home? I can’t make sense of this. If I’m not safe at home, am I safe anywhere? Black women aren’t exempt from this. The first night after finding out about her murder I haven’t slept more than three hours. Meanwhile, I’m in the midst of final exams, work, and beginning my Maymester. 

Christian Cooper

Birdwatching. He was so kind. I couldn’t help but think… will I ever be able to walk in a park again? Will I ever appear non-threatening to people? Will I ever be able to live? The confines of which I can safely live seem to be getting smaller and smaller. 

George Floyd

He loved Jesus. He was murdered. In the last moments of his life, he called for his Mama. His mama. He said he couldn’t breathe and I was transported to 2016 when Eric Garner uttered the same words before he took his last breath. The rock on my chest has metastasized. It’s a brick and my breath feel shallow. It doesn’t feel safe to leave my house without the shield of a white friend or family member. I still haven’t slept more than three hours a night.

Meanwhile, I still show up to my everyday responsibilities. My resting heart rate is now steadying at 95 – 98 BPM. My body has kept the score. My body is keeping score right now. I’m caring for myself — eating well and staying hydrated. I’m doing yoga. I’m a healthy 22-year-old. 

Racism has informed my experiences since before I was born. The systems, constructs, and schools of thought that were put into effect as America began. Over 400 years later, here we are. I was followed in a store last week. Don’t tell me it’s over.

As a black woman in America, I’m required to consider the White perspective. Smile a ton or you’ll look angry. Lower your voice or you’ll sound aggressive. When you walk in a store, keep your hands out of your purse and pockets. Don’t forget to smile at everyone you see. You don’t want anyone to think they need to worry about you. Don’t wear a hoodie. You’re tall. Do everything you can to make yourself smaller and younger. You don’t want anyone to be intimidated by your presence. 

America = white. It’s sad. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s true.

White people, can I ask that you consider MY perspective? Will you consider BIPOC’s (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) perspectives?  Will you listen before you speak? Will you subvert your feelings to give way, voice, and space for black people & to speak? Will you acknowledge the privilege your skin encompasses? Will you acknowledge the power that comes with it? Not just see it. Not just have it but do something with it.

(Note: Your black friends are not your educators. Google is free. Asking your black/POC friends is costly. They’re not your guides. They’re not your racial compasses. While we’re at it, don’t burden your black friends with your feelings about current events right now. They don’t need the added burden of yours on top of their own.)

Show me by acknowledging your ignorance. You can’t know what you don’t know. I understand that. I have grace for that but right now, choose to not ignore it. Don’t ignore this. Black people have been groaning for over 400 years. We matter. Black lives matter. My black life matters. My family’s black lives matter. We deserve to be heard. Don’t tell me you’re sorry. Show me by being apart of the solution. Show me by educating yourself. Show me by listening.

Show me by calling people out on their white privilege, white supremacy and racism. Show me by lamenting. Show me by repenting. Show me by doing. Do a diversity audit of your life. Do all of your friends look like you? What authors are you reading? What are your kids watching? What are you watching? What does your Facebook feed look like? Your Instagram? Twitter? If they’re all white, follow those who don’t look like you. 

Racism, white supremacy and white privilege are real. It’s trauma. It’s traumatizing. This is our constant always, but incessant right now. Racism is far from over.  Its roots are deep. Treating symptoms won’t work. We need to get to the wound. We need to look at the ‘why.’ It can’t be just us. The Church is eerily quiet right now. We can’t fight this fight alone. Show up and stand up. Spend your privilege. Silence is breeding violence. Being silent is a luxury I don’t have the privilege of having.

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