This is a collection of stories that, when considered together, can help inform you on my perspective of Race in America.
Hopefully, I am not usurping the momentum of anyone else, but I would like to start hashtag, or a hashtag theme:
For me specifically (for today at least): #anecdotesofblackness
If it’s a Tweet, a Tumble, a Stumble, Vine, Snap, video, note, or long-form piece like this one I want you to share your story as fully as you can. Share the individual instances that have left a mark on you good and bad. Share, so that people know every link in your chain.
If you haven’t read my I’m not b/Black, but… article, the gist is that the color of my skin does not matter to me. Yes, I see it, but it is not the largest defining factor of my being. It is a factor that I must admit to as I move through society. This series of stories are times in which society has hammered some meaning into my skin, mostly in a passive way. Some stories are included only because they chain to another story and give the whole more weight, and thus may have little to do with race in and of themselves.
I am fortunate that I have not had to deal with the overt racism of ages past. When relayed singularly I can’t say definitely of any of these stories that race was a motivator. Collectively over my life these, and many more stories I no longer remember have come together and left me feeling… well, it is hard to say. If I aim to fight discrimination outside of myself, I think that I need to be honest about what led me to this point to accomplish that goal.
Sometimes, when I try to tell these stories, people will ask me to consider the other person(s) involved. I will be asked how it would feel to be harshly judged or remembered for a passing moment. I am asked to consider the context. In reply, I bring out another story. I am told I am just cherry picking memories and choosing the bitter fruit at that.
All of these stories form my context. When I held these as individual events in only my life, they may have been funny stories or close calls. When connected, insight can be gained as to why I am apprehensive, dismissive, or seethe in any given instant. These are the stories that come to mind when people from all walks of life speak of their personal discomforts. To put it dramatically, these are the Sorrows that allow me to deeply empathize with other people.
This is what the world showed me. This is what I grew up into, what I adapted to. I am fine now. But I do not want anyone else to have to grow up as I did. I do not want a child to mature, to become an adult and be able to write a short story on the shadows of racism and phantoms of discrimination that dot their lives.
Now, should every side eye be interpreted as being due to my skin color? Gods no. But when such glares come not from what you do and profess, but something about yourself that you can’t change, how many times is that ignored? How many times do I write off individual instances without considering them in aggregate?
I say to many people “Give me the Truth, even if it is painful. Lies and illusions I can work against forever and get nowhere.” In this vein and my life, constant ambiguity has been my enemy. Looking into Black history in America in the last century, we can definitively say that hangings, church bombings, and other physical abuse had naught but damaging results.
But is redlining, the act of denying services in everything from business loans to prospective housing due to perceived race or socioeconomic status, any better? I would say it is just as bad, as it also robs future opportunities from people. It is not as visceral and, legally, harder to prove.
I am the first to admit that I have not had a bad life. I had a roof over my head, solid education, plenty of entertainment, a steady supply of foodstuffs, and prime health. I found myself leading a singular life, much unlike those I come across daily. For a long time I took each instance on its own. I cannot recall a time in which I ever got every side of the story. But I will share mine with you, as keenly as I remember it, as a first step.