My first known encounter of racism was at Satilla Marsh Elementary School. I was in the 5th grade and 10 years old. A group of Black students and I were written up and damn near suspended for “bullying and beating up” a white male student on the playground. This never happened. The white boy made it up.
Prior to this I had never been written up in my entire elementary school career. I had always excelled. Always the only 1 or 2 of a few Black kids in predominantly white schools in the “gifted” classes, whatever that means….I realized years later that white folks liked to make me not like the “other negroes” and a token to access their unobtainable privilege.
But the thing is—I have never wanted to be othered, special or unique. I have always tried to fit in. To purposely make myself small and shrink to not be seen. By 10, I’d already had enough of being that multi-racial, fat, smart girl.
My mama and sister pointed out something to me today that I’ve been sitting with the last couple of hours. “Did you know your mouth twists up when you’re trying to talk white?” my mama said. “Yeah go back and look at cho lives” laughed my sister. My mama said that when I was in kindergarten I had learned to blend so well with white people that she would go to PTAs and wouldn’t even recognize me amongst a sea of white children, she would go in these settings and couldn’t even recognize the sound of her child’s voice.
How do you learn to contort yourself at 5?
To survive in white spaces at 5. To not see yourself reflected in an American history book until the fourth grade. And even then in a thick textbook only take up a 3 sentence paragraph.
How do you find resolve with that?
To intentionally seek out yourself and create Black spaces that smell, look and sound like you. You devour and create your own history notebook of Jet, Ebony, Right On and hundreds of pages from history.com
How do you at 22, leave an internship everyday at the FL State Attorney’s Office with your mouth hurting from trying to slowly morph words from a language and sound that feels unfamiliar to you?
How do you unlearn all that?
TBH, some of it you don’t, some of it’s so deep ingrained in parts of yourself it leaves a stain on your DNA. Some of it is a pattern you don’t even realize you’re doing anymore.
Over the last seven years I’ve intentionally learned to trust the sound of my inner voice.
It soothes, calls and challenges me in my discomfort.
Dear white folks-I know that knowing all Black Lives Matter is an unfamiliar territory and sound for you. But, it’s an act of necessary silence. Necessary bending. Necessary contortion. And a purposeful call to listen to the Black voices that have been trained to do this for you.
I promise you, if you sit still in this sound and resist it not, it will awaken you from the discomfort you are surely to learn.