I spend a lot of my quiet, introspective, alone time focused on my personal development by way of unravelling the many layers of my identity. In other words, I’ll sit and ask myself questions like, “Who and what have had the greatest influence on the person I am today?” “How did the environment that I was immersed in for most of my upbringing and adolescence impact the way in which I perceive people and the world as an adult?” And, “When did I start caring about my Blackness more than I care about the other elements of my identity?
I’ve created this identity–both online and in “real life”–that is centered heavily around surfacing the issues of racial inequity and systemic oppression that tend to be talked about quietly and in silos, and thrusting them into the dominant mainstream. The majority of my social media content–including this blog–is directly or at least indirectly tied to race in some capacity. My day-to-day conversations with my coworkers, family, friends, and counterparts all somehow manage to circle back to race, even if the conversation seemed to begin with a topic that is completely unrelated to it. It’s gotten to the point where people anticipate that I’ll be ready with a statistic, article or anecdote on race relations at any given moment, almost as if I’m a walking encyclopedia on Race in America. Race–and in particular, Blackness–is an indispensable component of my personal, professional, and social life. But why? you ask.
1| Because for most of my life, I was told (and genuinely believed in) the “post-racial,” melting pot, fantasyland that was sold and evidenced to me by Disney movies and my circle of white friends.
I haven’t always been the super woke, hyperconscious Black activist that most people who meet me as an adult come to know. (Ask anyone who knew me before the age of 18). As a Black child growing up with two college educated parents in the upper middle class, the tension I felt between my race and socioeconomic status was always salient but confusing to me. In an environment where my Blackness was consistently called into question by my own Black peers but seemingly ignored or unnoticed by my white ones, I was comfortable with the idea that if my presence didn’t incite anger or hatred among white people the way it would have–at a broad level–when my parents were my age, then maybe the idea and impact of racism was losing its relevance and didn’t have a place in 21st century America. I believed this was the case because my parents’ own social mobility and my access to the same resources, insights and opportunities as my white peers disproved the notion that race had to be the ultimate barrier or determinant. I wasn’t taught about race as a systematic, social construct, or that my interpersonal relationships with white people had little to do with the pervasive influence of white supremacy at a societal level. Instead, I was encouraged to appreciate the integrated, racially diverse public schools that I had the opportunity to attend—the very environment that my ancestors fought and died for. I wasn’t taught about the displacement of Black teachers after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision; I wasn’t taught that government programs like the G.I. Bill systematically built white multigenerational wealth while excluding my Black ancestors, or about the countless ‘racial netural’ government policies that deliberately excluded People of Color and favored whites, explaining the current socioeconomic and educational disparities that we just seemed to act like existed at the fault of the Black and brown individuals themselves not working hard enough or wanting success badly enough. I bought into the exact rhetoric that maintains white dominance and keeps the status quo neatly intact (isn’t it crazy how powerful systemic racism is?). It wasn’t until I got to college and truly experienced the ugliness and psychological harmfulness of racism firsthand that things started to shift for me; my circle of close friends went from being all white to all Black; my consciousness of systemic injustices began to formulate; I started questioning everything I thought I believed about race and identity, and I never stopped.
2| Because everything–and I mean everything–is a function of the construct of race.
I talk about race because the more you learn about how race literally did not exist at one point in time, but was deliberately created to oppress, divide, and conquer–and that for 400 years it has managed to do exactly that–you can’t go back to business as usual. Though it is extremely important to prioritize learning about and understanding the intersectionality of identities and how they shape our experiences across our country, I now understand that none of those conversations can’t be had without first understanding race as the most salient indicator of institutional outcomes across every system that we operate in and interact with. Incarceration, sentencing, education, foster care placements, healthcare, you name it – the gaps and disparities across each of these entities stretch much deeper than social and interpersonal issues; each of the disproportionate outcomes that exist within them are produced by systemic inequities (and complemented by implicit bias) to maintain the racial hierarchical order that those crazy European colonists fought so hard to create.
3| Because the more I learn about my Blackness, the more I love it, and have to publicly celebrate it.
Most importantly, being Black is everything. I can’t help but to celebrate, acknowledge, and elevate my beautiful brothers and sisters and our incomparable strength, creativity, resilience, power, agility, ingenuity, originality, and raw talent. Our history is so much deeper and richer than the quick bullet points we’re given during Black History Month in school. Our inventions, our accomplishments, our businesses, our institutions, and our ideas have been emulated and appropriated for so long and by so many different groups that people have forgotten and/or refuse to accept that our genius has been a significant and insurmountable contributor to the triumphs of our country. Yes, I talk about race because it’s important to have critical conversations about the systemic inequities that quietly determine outcomes, despite how hard we may resist them; but I also talk about race because I am so proud, honored and grateful to be Black. You will often find me participating in the antics of #BlackTwitter, scoping out the best Black-owned restaurants, businesses, and entrepreneurs, sharing articles that are pertinent and specific to our community and our issues, watching reruns of Tyler Perry’s best Madea movies on BET, OWN, or Centric, and hashtagging #BlackGirlMagic on every photo on my Instagram feed. There is nothing sweeter, more beautiful, or more magical than being Black.
/// Do you find yourself talking about race all the time? If so, what are your reasons? I would love to hear them!