I’ve heard some rumors about this place. Apparently, the owners don’t even own the land on which this restaurant sits. The service here is terrible. The ambiance is lackluster. Let me correct myself: the atmosphere is hostile. Don’t get me started on the food. Their weekly special of cultural appropriation comes with two sides: fearing people of color and the denial of white privilege. Sometimes, if we’re lucky — and it’s in season — they’ll add racial profiling onto the menu and a free dessert. Imagine having reverse racism a la mode with a brownie. Yummy right? This place has been here for what feels like centuries. Some people dragged my ancestors here because they just had to try it. I didn’t like the taste. I wanted to send it back. First, I tried speaking to other patrons. Maybe they would see something wrong with this restaurant. They said the food tasted great! Most of them are regulars and thought I was outrageous for my negative review. I tried speaking to the managers. They ignored me. They didn’t bother to hear or see me. If I ever decide to go to this restaurant again, it’ll be a curbside pickup. Oh, and no tip. All in all, I’d give it no stars.
There are so many names to say. George Floyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Grey, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, or Philando Castile to name a few. Another year, another month, another day and another unarmed Black man and woman killed. To wake up every day, seeing these names, seeing graphic videos of their death, is traumatizing. When we urge others to say their name, it is because they can no longer say it for themselves and because someone decided that their life had no value. Graphic videos, however, create an unimaginable amount of pain and perpetuate inherent trauma. How many more names are we going to have to say and scream until someone can finally see that this place is not safe? How many more brothers, husbands, fathers, mothers, daughters and granddaughters have to die? How many of our children across the diaspora need to grow up and have “the talk.” Not the birds and bees, but the “Here’s what you do when you interact with the police, are profiled or when someone determines your skin color is a threat.” That makes the birds and the bees easy in comparison. How do you tell your teenage Black son, “Don’t wear that hoodie, wear bright colors when you go out with your friends and don’t move your hands off the wheel when you’re stopped?” Or your Black daughter, “Limit your passion because they will perceive you as angry. Remember to work twice as hard, because you will only be given half.” What does that say about America?
What does the silence from others say? The silence from others tells me that they do not value my life or the lives of others who look like me. They are not pressed by the rampant racism which is alive in our country and they often believe we live in a post-racial society. Isn’t that funny? We see Black people killed everyday. Mhmm. I’ve been told “to calm down and stop being angry,” that I am “so articulate” as if my ability to use correct grammar is surprising and “that it’s not all about race.”
It is overwhelming to always have fear in the back of my mind. It is overwhelming when people tell me, “I don’t understand.” No fool, you do not understand because you cannot comprehend what it means to live in this struggle, but I ask you, what have you done to educate yourself? Your position in the system makes you think it is a broken one; my position in the system tells me it’s working the way it was designed to. This is an underlying, deep, rooted illness. This is the pandemic which has been going on for centuries. I cannot expect many to understand the way my heart aches and how shattered I feel. How angry I am at how my health prevents me from attending a protest during this pandemic. It’s funny how Black culture is the root of hip hop and sneaker culture, and when ACT UP comes on, everyone’s the first person to be all “periodt pooh,” but the last one to attempt to elevate and assist their Black counterparts. To clarify, that was sarcasm – it is not funny at all. Let me be clear, there are people who enjoy our culture, but when our freedom is at stake, they are nowhere to be found.
Most of all. I am tired. I am tired of attending schools with such a false curriculum on people of color. I am tired of white girls asking me, “Am I Black too?” post-vacation. I am tired of seeing borderline Blackface at prom when girls get spray tans. I am tired of seeing people say, “Send the minorities back,” as if the minorities did not build this land, engineer and innovate our future. I am tired of someone touching my hair without consent. I am tired of being one of the few people of color in spaces. I am exhausted. I am writing because if I don’t, I do not know where my brain will go, or where my pain will go. This is what it feels like to be Black in America. This is what it feels like when you feel like you’re screaming for help, but nobody hears you.
To my beautiful brown and Black family, I see you and hope you are okay. It’s never easy to process this, but I am here with you. To those allies who are doing their part to uplift communities of color and dismantle systemic racism — I see you too. I appreciate you all for listening. And most importantly, for seeing me. Now, we need to vote accordingly.