black in america

Why Having a Black Friend Is Not Enough

In case you missed it, on Monday a video surfaced of a policeman in Columbia, South Carolina dragging and pulling a black student from her desk while her classmates and teacher watched. Almost immediately conversation and speculation swirled around the internet.

While some wanted to wait to see if the student “provoked” the officer (which would not have warranted that type of force on a student) others immediately felt that it was another instance of police brutality against Blacks in America. And it was.

I don’t need to know what she did before the police officer attacked her, I don’t need to know if she had a history of disobedience at Spring Valley High School. What I need to know is why is this still happening after almost a year and a half of conversation about race and police brutality against Blacks in America.

So on Tuesday, to shed some light on the situation, Sheriff Leon Lott got up on a podium and tried to justify the deplorable acts that occurred Monday afternoon and it was very problematic.

First, Lott said their investigation would only based on if the officer acted within the training he received from the police department, insinuating that he force the officer used could have been appropriate. Then he patted himself on the back for “swiftly” asking the FBI to investigate this case as well. And finally, Lott attempted to dispel the idea that the officer treated the student the way he did because she was Black by saying the officer who used unnecessary force to handcuff the student “has been dating an African American female.” But since when does dating a Black women mean that a person can’t be racist? Why does dating a black women automatically excuse him from the crime?

It seems that any time a person says or does something that is racist the excuse to quickly follow is something along the lines of “I’m not racist, I have a black best friend!”

But what does that do for me? What does that do for the mother who has to watch her child get slammed to the ground over and over again on various media outlets? What does that do for 12 year old Tamir Rice whose life was taken away from him way too soon? What does that do for his parents? What does that do for the little black boys and black girls scared to leave their houses every morning because time and time again the world has shown them that their lives in fact do not matter? That they deserve to be treated as men and women when they are barely over the age of 14.

I need people to stop using having a Black friend, significant other, family member, etc. to excuse the racist comments that come out of their mouths or racist actions that occur.  Knowing a Black person, smiling at a Black person and even hiring a Black person are not reasons to ignore the problematic things that happen to Black people on a daily basis. These things are not the same as being an ally and should not be confused with that either. Racism is a systemic issue, it is deeper than your personal relationships with Black people.

You want to be an ally, use your privilege during intense moments, call friends and family members out when they try and belittle the treatment of Black people by police in this country. Provide overwhelming support for Black loved ones in your life, we need it. And finally never, ever use your relationship with a Black person as an excuse for why you cannot be racist or oppressive.

I am (still) not my hair

This is the second posts I have written about natural hair, you can find my original thoughts here.

So it’s Tuesday night, I’m doing my nightly scroll through Facebook when my finger slips and accidentally clicks on a video I had no intention of watching. It’s a black woman, a news anchor, and almost immediately I hear the words “natural hair” and “in the workplace” and as a curly girl new to the working world, I’m intrigued. The next minute and forty seconds is complete and utter bullshit to me, but for the sake of reference, here’s the video I am referring to.

Malcolm X once said “The most disrespected woman in America, is the Black woman,” and the fact that the video above even had to be made and published for all of society to weigh in on proves that statement, if only a little bit. I really don’t understand the obsession that society has with policing black women’s bodies, but it has got to stop. We cover up too much, we’re prudes, we show too much skin, we’re hoes and if we wear our hair the way it grows out of our head, we’re unprofessional and it’s a distraction.

This video and the way Corporate America reacts to black women’s hair upsets me because still, in 2015, people of color are scrutinized, ostracized and down right rejected because of things they cannot control. I understand that broadcast journalism is a different playing field, and no I have not seen a woman of color rock her natural hair on a newscast yet, and that is exactly the problem.

Natural hair is deemed unprofessional because it is unfamiliar, because this student’s (probably white) professor does not understand it, because they don’t have to. But it’s about time that society stops using a lack of knowledge as an excuse to police someone else and how they were created.

The fact is, there is NOTHING unprofessional about natural hair. In the past year alone I:

Represented Dell on the University of Missouri campus with natural hair.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.15.36 PM

Represented Bud Light on the University of Missouri campus/in Columbia, MO with natural hair.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.15.55 PM

Graduated from the University of Missouri while rocking my natural hair.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.23.05 PM

And got a full time job in the journalism field all while having natural hair.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.16.35 PMFascinating, isn’t it? And would you believe that my hair has yet to disrupt the flow of a work day, crazy stuff.

If you’re reading this and you are perplexed, I want to help you: first, there is nothing wrong or unprofessional about the way hair grows out of a black woman’s scalp. Second, requiring a black woman to change her appearance, especially when it is something she cannot control is truly what is unprofessional. Lastly, think about why natural hair is unprofessional to many. What about it bothers businesses so much that they think it is okay to ask a woman with natural hair to potentially damage her hair in order to fit European standards of beauty?

Here’s a thought; instead of criticizing what you don’t understand, ask questions. Stop demonizing black women for how they choose to wear their hair. Stop pushing European standards of beauty on a group of women who were not made to look like that. And please stop associating black features with unprofessionalism and ugliness, doing so allows others to and continues the stereotype that black women cannot be beautiful the way they were created.

The weight of the n-word

I have a confession to make: I grew up privileged. I grew up in a suburb of Indianapolis, IN called Fishers, which has been voted one of the countries safest cities multiple times.

I went to a public high school that’s one of the best in the state where for the first I was surrounded by white people. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me back track. While I’ve always lived in Fishers, I attended a private school in Indianapolis that housed grades K-8 before trekking out to the suburbs for high school.

My first month there was truly a culture shock. After being in racially diverse classes for the first 14 or so years of my life, I was one of maybe two or three black students taking AP and honors courses and I hated it. I wanted to be in classes where I fit in, where teachers didn’t talk to me like I was stupid.

For my entire freshmen year and honestly all throughout my high school career I felt like I had to choose between being an “Oreo” and being black. I chose to be an “Oreo,” but at the time I felt like I had no choice. I couldn’t help that I was smart, or would have rather written yearbook copy than played sports. I was still trying to figure out my blackness and where it fit in at a school as large as Fishers High School.

I never found it. At least not in high school.

In those four years I let a lot of stuff slide, but the thing I regret the most, letting people who did not identify as black use the n-word.

The word is rooted in hate. It has sense been reclaimed by the people it was once used against and to me there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with anyone using it, as long as they understand the repercussions of it. But so many don’t (or choose to ignore them) and that’s what I have a problem with.

A little less than 24 hours ago nine blacks were killed in Charleston, South Carolina for being black. How unbelievable. Equally unbelievable is the radio silence from my white peers. The same people that used the n-word consistently in my presence (and still on social media–yes I do still follow you) have nothing to say about the consistent slaughtering of Black lives that has always been happening, but especially since the murder of Mike Brown last August.

I have a problem with that. You see, when you choose to say the n-word you’re choosing to except all the baggage and history that comes with that word. You’re saying that you understand that blacks are systematically oppressed and the problem isn’t black on black crime, or a lack of education, but that this country was quite literally built by us, but not for us. You’re saying that you understand racism is institutionalized and goes so much deeper than a white kid not wanting to play with a black kid during recess. It is not a word that is exchangeable with “homie” or “friend” it is deeper than that.

My problem with this word and all who use it freely is that they don’t get what it means. You see you can’t use the n-word and then say Black lives don’t matter, you can’t use the n-word and then not stand up for your black friends when you see something unjust happening to them, you cannot use the n-word openly on Twitter and then have nothing to say when 12 year old Tamir Rice, 18 year old Mike Brown and too many others to name are getting killed every week in the country just for being black.

James Baldwin once said “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” Well, here I am, 5 years removed from high school and furious. I am furious that I never spoke up and let that hate speech slide. I’m furious that I worry about my boyfriend walking home alone at night, I’m furious that every day it seems like another black life is lost to police brutality and racism. I’m upset, I’m pissed off and I am tired. Because all I’ve ever done is live; and somehow in America, living while Black is punishable by death.

Black in America

In the wake of a tragic shooting, where an unarmed college bound teenager was shot to death, my heart is very heavy.

I tried to shy away from writing anything about my opinion on what seems to be like the consistent killings of innocent black males, but it’s not in my nature to keep quiet about anything.

I don’t have much to say about what occurred yesterday afternoon to Michael Brown and his family. They are in my prayers and I hope the cop who wrongly killed him gets everything he deserves.

As an older sister to a young black teenager and possibly a future mother to one, I cannot help, but be terrified for their futures. How can you raise a child to love the color of their skin, while also teaching them that people will hate them for it? How do I tell my little brother to be the bigger person when his suburban white “friends” use the n-word and giggle like it’s nothing?

Much like the killing of Eric Garner, this situation as gotten a lot of attention on social media, so much that I had to log off Twitter last night and go for a drive. I physically could not handle the ignorance I was reading.

We’re humans, we’re curious creatures. We like to take what little information we have and piece it together to get the full story and whether it’s true or not, we usually take it as fact.

I can sit here and type for hours straight listing statistics and sharing articles about how blacks are more at risk for dying at the hands of police than any other race. I could try to put into words how it felt to get told I couldn’t play with everyone else as a 5 year old at summer camp because I was black. I could recall every time a boy didn’t think I was “cute for a black girl,” and I could tell you about my walks home to my apartment where every day I pass by fraternity houses praying out loud that they don’t call me the n-word that day, but does any of that even matter to the majority?

My struggles don’t affect you, my anger is just apart of who I am, I’m just fulfilling the stereotype I have been given since birth, right?

The truth is, no three minute video, or 10 minute newscast, or even a newsfeed full of personal experiences could make anyone who isn’t black understand what we go through when week after week we see black males slain across concrete drenched in their own blood.

But if people would just listen. If people would just stop trying to make excuses saying “well maybe he was stealing,” or “maybe he broke the law,” maybe we’d reach an understanding, or at least start to.

 

 

Navy Yard Shooting in DC

Before you read this, there are two things you should do: 1) check the coverage out here if you haven’t already and 2) understand that this is completely my opinion and this is my perspective on the entire situation.

First of all, my prayers go out to the the families, victims and those harmed by the shooting in DC this morning. Know that people are praying for you and that you are not alone in this.

Now, I found out about the shooting from Buzzfeed. Yup, this was the first “article” I saw on the subject, which is a bit mind boggling, but not surprising seeing as though I am a part of a generation that is always so plugged in. Even though I tend to get very frustrated with news, I decided to immediately turn on CNN to see what was going on.

After about 5 minutes of watching, I was disappointed. An anonymous tip had been given claiming that the suspect was a “6 foot 1 male, bald and African American.” Less than five minutes later, DC police were interviewed saying that the description of the suspect given earlier, was in fact not confirmed by them and may not be correct. Of course. The same thing happened during the Boston Bombings, and CNN was the trusted new-station that made this mistake.

You may be thinking “What’s wrong with that?” as a black female in America, I cringe every time I hear a mass murder, shooter, or any kind of criminal is black. Why? Because it makes me look bad. Maybe that’s selfish of me, but I can’t help it. These people, doing these awful things, paint a face for an entire race in a matter of minutes, on top of killing innocent civilians, it isn’t fair.

Being black in America comes with its own set of challenges. As if there are some list of rules you have to follow in order to make sure you fit in. Don’t be ghetto, but don’t be too bougie. I guess what I don’t understand is why I have to fit in those two small groups and why my race really has anything to do with it.

The reality is, the gunman (or gunmen) could very well be black, but is that more important than their motive, or the lives lost? I understand that a suspects race can be very important in identifying who they are, and hopefully capturing them, but when you immediately put a face on a potential criminal, and that description fits any black man walking around the metropolitan DC area, it becomes a problem.

Maybe I am taking the CNN anchor’s description too personally, maybe I shouldn’t be offended by it. But unfortunately, I’ve dealt with this all my life and to have yet another suspect be wrongfully identified as a black American, only makes it worse for those of us trying to do right.