I recently went on a tear about Aunt Jemima and brown Band-Aids and how Breonna Taylor’s murderers are still on the police force and not charged. It’s been very jarring for me to see this sudden outpouring of care and that care being directed at everything except for what people are asking for, which is equality.
I’m working on being OK with saying that I’m angry about this really delayed reaction that’s not even really a reaction.
Having black brothers, a black father, black men in my family and that kind of vicarious grief that I experience every time someone is murdered … I also have this anger. There’s no other way to say it. I’m working on being OK with saying that I’m angry about this really delayed reaction that’s not even really a reaction.
Is This the Beginning of a Permanent Change?
I never had the luxury of not understanding my race and that it makes me a target for racism. It pervades every part of my life. So for people all of a sudden to say they didn’t know, it’s just like, well, we all have the same internet.
I think it feels like a wave. There are reasons to be optimistic, but I really don’t think we’ve even touched the hard stuff, which is white supremacy and how that needs to be completely upended. People are not — as much as they’re out in the streets, as much as they’re saying black lives matter — people do not want to grapple with what that looks like. And they’re throwing up roadblocks explaining, “Well, we can’t defund the police. That makes no sense. It’ll be chaos. And we can’t do this.” It’s really hard for me to be optimistic because Aunt Jemima is going to be off shelves. And people are talking about being anti-racist and reading anti-racist book lists.
What It’s Like to Feel Invisible
When I was a kid, I had a recurring nightmare that I was screaming. Someone was attacking me and I was screaming, but nothing could come out. It was either a lump in my throat and I could feel it as a child or I was screaming, but no one could hear anything. And this attack, this assault was happening. I was voicing not being OK. And it didn’t matter.
You’re never affirmed when you’re the only one in a mostly white space.
I think that’s the best analogy I can give for what it’s like to feel invisible — to feel as if you’ve stated how you feel multiple times in different ways, and it’s still falling on unwilling ears. It’s being gaslit. I think everyone can access a time where they felt gaslit.
You start to feel like, did I make that up? Is that what happened? Because there’s no echo chamber when you’re the other. There’s no one who you can look over and be like, “Did you see that?” You’re never affirmed when you’re the only one in a mostly white space.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot interpersonally as well. I tend to be the only black person in a room and in my friend group. And it’s painful to feel like people whom you love and who love you are choosing not to see all of you because it inconveniences the way they view themselves.
The last time I felt invisible … A woman I used to work with completely denied having certain conversations with me. Later, I looked her up on Twitter, and she was doing a lot of performative ally tweeting, and I called her out publicly.
I know how to tread water. I don’t want to tread water anymore. I would like to get to land. I would like to be OK.
Then, I shared the story with a woman who had been doing what I thought was really great work highlighting ways to donate, ways to show up, ways to be a good ally. When I told her the story, she said, “Wow, that’s crazy.” That’s all. And I thought, “I really feel that response is dismissive because I’m sending you a big paragraph of how I was harmed by these women that you worked with. One of which you’re still friendly with. And all you can say is that’s crazy.”
I felt truly invisible.
What Does the Future Hold?
I’m currently working on articles about talking to your kids about race and racism. And it’s really striking how these experiences have led to survival tactics that black parents have passed onto their kids for how to navigate being in a white supremacist capitalist system.
I know how to tread water. I don’t want to tread water anymore. I would like to get to land. I would like to be OK. But I also think part of why this movement is so resonant is because there are more people who are angry. We’ve always been angry, but that anger has reached a crescendo that is hard to ignore.
I really want to believe that this is different and that my life after this will be one where I don’t have to explain myself or prove that I deserve to be at a table or that what I bring to the table is valuable. But I really do think I see it going back to what it’s been — which is unfortunately at the expense of a black person’s life.