I cannot get away from the knowledge that my skin has more melanin in it than my white peers or neighbors. Every time a purse is hugged close to someone’s body when I enter the room or children are nestled close to their parents because I walk down the grocery store aisle, I remember that my skin has color and my hair is a bit more course than theirs.
I was taught from a very young age that I was to keep my hands out of my pockets in stores, make sure that my clothes were very neat and that I spoke with extra enunciation so that I would be more acceptable to white people who I may encounter, because they would be watching me from the moment I entered. This hurt my parents to teach us this. They wanted to teach us what any other parent tells their kids about not talking to strangers and basic life instructions, not how to avoid racists reactions based on our skin color.
On top of all of the issues that many Americans deal with such as body image and social status and keeping up with technological advancements, etc…African Americans are compounded by the fact that we wake up Black. Due to slavery, Jim Crow, media stereotyping and the fact that many people never have racial diversity in their social circles, we Blacks are feared and thought of as chronic thieves and sexually promiscuous creatures that steal children and kill for sport.
Predominantly African-American neighborhoods are called the hood and it is assumed that we are in a war zone environment dodging bullets, passing hookers, slapping five to the pimps and gangbangers we pass along the way and just jivving our lives away.
I have never seen a real hooker or gangbanger. I don’t slap five, have never witnessed a drive-by or anything of that sort. I am so afraid to even buy a watermelon at Giant Eagle because all of the white people give me that “See they do eat it” look! I hate being judged before I ever get a chance to speak or act.
Before I go off on another tangent, my point is that my color and/or presence of it does not predispose me to media imposed stereotypical behaviors. Sometimes I just wanna be, without being a color or type. Can I just wake up? Can I just carry my cloth grocery bags like every other person without being tailed by security? I am not interested in children, so I am so glad that you hold little Cadence close to you, I wouldn’t want them to even try to follow me home. Can I step out of my nice Cadillac or Lincoln without you beeping the alarm on your Escort when we pass in the parking lot. I promise not to leave my luxury vehicle in or order to carjack you for your 85 Dodge.
Can I just live?