by Tonesha Finley ™ –
So what is it like being on the black side of the racial divide? Well, I often hear other black people say “don’t try to explain to white people what it’s like to be black cause they’ll never understand” and while even I, find this to be true, I still find myself trying. Why? Because I still believe in humanity as a whole and because I want the world to know that my struggles as a young, well spoken, light skinned black woman in America are really no different than those of a young, assumingly hostile and threatening, dark skinned black man in America. Seeing how our lives hold so little value, comes with a different kind of hurt that many can’t even fathom.
All black people feel it, whether they are vocal about it or not, even if they choose to ignore it, they still feel it and they know that no matter how well dressed, well mannered, articulate, educated, professional or successful they are, that no matter how hard they try, they will never quite be good enough because there are unfavorable odds stacked against them. I’m not saying you can’t be black and successful, I’m saying that if you are, you live with a daily reminder that your success does not outweigh your blackness. No I am not playing victim here and it not my intent to simply complain for the sake of complaining. I genuinely want people to understand that this is our painful reality and we don’t make this stuff up. I want change, but change cannot come without understanding.
I grew up in Royse City, Texas, a small country town about 30 miles outside of Dallas. Black people were then and still are the minority in this town. However, it wasn’t until I left Royse City that my eyes became open to the very blatant racism and discrimination that black people face. Of course I knew that racism existed because not everybody likes black people, that was my mentality and it was that cut and dry. I was surrounded by white friends, teachers and some that I still call my family to this day and I was loved. I was embraced. I fit in with the Blacks, Whites and Hispanics. I was cool with everybody and that’s because I was raised in an environment where hate and discrimination wasn’t being shoved down our throats. We were all friends because we were all friends, simply. I had white teachers whose houses I would spend nights at on the weekends. I even babysat my black principals kids while him and his white wife went out for date night.
The police officers there knew us by name and when we did act up or we were out past curfew, we weren’t treated like criminals, we were threatened with them telling our mom’s or giving us warnings. I mean, hate was just absolutely not being thrown around in this place. It was about acceptance and love. Right now I am friends on Facebook with some of the same friends and teachers and I know they don’t necessarily understand my plight and my stance, but they know me and they know my heart, so they try to. As a black woman in America, while I wish they would do more and take a stance with me and be more vocal about the racism and white privilege they see, as well as speak out about the police killings, I understand why they don’t. The reality is, if they do, they run the risk of being ostracized by their family, friends, co-workers, certain social groups, etc. I have a white, female friend who is very dear to me, she’s married to a police officer. She empathizes with me and she understands why I feel the way I do. While I wish she would speak out about certain issues, I understand why she doesn’t. This is her husband and regardless of how I feel, I have to understand that that’s her reality, which contributes to certain things she says and does.
No, I’m not condoning her or anyone else not speaking or acting out about the social injustices being committed towards black people, I simply understand what’s at stake and people not wanting to risk it. On the other hand, I feel like if you truly loved me, then you would speak or act out because my black life matters to you. One thing about me though, I’m a realist, so I try to look at and understand things from all points of view, not just my own.
Since society deems black men as “suspicious, threatening, savage thugs”, allow me to give you into a glimpse at a racism and discrimination from a “non threatening, non hostile” point of view. People feel like because of my lighter skin tone that I don’t face much racism and discrimination, which is absolutely false because not only do I catch it from white people because I am black, I also catch it from some black people too because I’m not black enough. So don’t ever think for a second that just because I am a woman and Im a lighter shade of black that I don’t get discriminated against because I definitely do.
Can you imagine what it’s like to walk into a restaurant that’s predominantly filled with white people and have them turn and glare at you like you don’t belong there? Can you imagine what it’s like to go to into a beauty salon and be treated with no respect and told that they don’t have time to serve you right now, yet there are no customers and all the workers are sitting there looking at you while doing absolutely nothing? Can you imagine your 5 year old being told on the bus by an older white kid that his mom is a drug dealer? Can you imagine your 11 year old daughter going to a predominantly white magnet school and being told by some of the students that she needs to go back to the ghetto? Or maybe having to tell your child that even tho there are no black characters in the school play, you can still audition, but there’s a great a chance you won’t get the part because all the characters have straight, blond hair and blue eyes?
Can you imagine how painful it is to be right about that and seeing your child hurt because she never gets a part and she feels that how she looks isn’t good enough? Can you imagine what it’s like to go into a store with a bag or purse and be followed around like you have that bag or purse because your intent is to steal? Can you imagine being treated with the rudest customer service because of the color of your skin? I could go on and on and on asking you these types of questions because the scenarios are endless, and the thing is, I don’t have to imagine. I live this. I know this pain. I know this rejection. I know whats it’s like to be considered less than. Speaking of less than can you imagine what it’s like to be considered as 3/5 human in the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America? Seriously, can you? To have your own government (who should be held to the highest esteem and enforcing equality for everyone) see you as less than everyone else? That means that the simplest laws and due diligence that was provided for every other race, didn’t apply to you because you were officially considered not worthy of being acknowledged as a part of the human race? I know there is much controversy about the ratification of 13th amendment. However, I feel that ratification is irrelevant because many Americans still only see us and treat us as 3/5 human. Which is why when police kill non threatening, unarmed black men, society justifies it and feels like that man deserved to die because he wasn’t worthy anyway.
With racial tensions being the way they are right now, you’re pretty much being forced to choose sides. Either you’re for Black Lives Matter or you’re for Back The Blue. There is a major misconception, due to the actions of some, that Black Lives Matter is a terrorists organization and that is simply untrue. We are black people who understand that All Lives Matter, we just want our Black Lives to be included in All Lives. According to a statement on www.whitehouse.gov President Obama said “I know that there are some who have criticized even the phrase ‘black lives matter,’ as if the notion is, is that other lives don’t matter. And so you get ‘all lives matter’ or ‘blue lives matter.’ I understand the point they’re trying to make. I think it’s important for us to also understand that the phrase ‘black lives matter’ simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed. It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter. It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability. “And so we shouldn’t get too caught up in this notion that somehow people who are asking for fair treatment are somehow, automatically, anti-police, are trying to only look out for black lives as opposed to others.
I think we have to be careful about playing that game, just because that’s not obviously not what is intended”. He absolutely correct. As much as society tries to force us to choose a side, there are of those of who can empathize with both. Many people who empathize with both choose to keep quiet both matters because they don’t want to offend anyone. Me on the other hand, I am an extremely vocal person who empathizes with both sides because everybody has a job to do and the reality is, some of these officers became law enforcement officials because they genuinely wanted to protect and serve, as well as make a difference in this world. Some joined for more sinister reasons. While I wish more officers would stand up and speak out against police brutality, they also run the risk of losing the things and people they love, as well as their lives and we’ve seen the type of reprimand and harsh punishments they receive when they do speak out. Again, I am not condoning their passivity. I’m just being real and saying that I get it. While I do get it, I feel like at some point, somebody has to be willing to stand up, somebody has to be willing to sacrifice, that’s the only way we will ever see real change. If enough people stood and said “that’s enough, no more killing innocent, black people”, we wouldn’t end all police shootings, but we could definitely make a difference in how rapidly innocent black men, women and even black children are being murdered at the hands of those who took an oath to protect and serve. Instead, we have the complete opposite. There are more people speaking and acting out in justification of why we deserve to die. This goes back to that 13th amendment mentality and a quote by W.E.B. DuBois “a system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect“.
People are quick to say “well other races face racism and discrimination too”, which is absolutely correct, they do. However, I am not all of those other races, I am black and I can only speak about the unfair and inhumane treatment of black people that I have receive and witnessed as a black woman in America.
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