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Photo Credit: Liz Kelso

I don’t take notice when I walk by a group of African-American men. I might if they are rowdy, but passing them doesn’t cause beads of sweat to drip down my spine. There is only a small chance that I will be accosted. This is not because I am also African-American, but because these men don’t notice me. I’m part of the scenery, a blur in their background as most people passing them are. Everyone except for an attractive young woman who gets the annoying cat call. Aside from something truly out of the ordinary, this is all these young men notice. I don’t fear them because most people aren’t out to harm anyone.

I mentioned to a friend that African-American men should be afraid. I didn’t elaborate on the statement. My assumption was that she would infer the reference about the shooting of unarmed black men at the hands of white law enforcement and white civilians. My friend, who is white said, “If anything it should be the other way around, white people should be afraid of Blacks and Latino men.”

I thought it was a one-off comment; however, the next day, an acquaintance of mine, who is also white said a similar thing. She later told me that she knows it’s wrong to think this way, but it’s hard for her to break free from her upbringing. One that emphasized the evil of the black race.

I thought about these comments. I dug deep in my memory to recall the last African-American male that caused a significant loss of life. One didn’t come to mind, this isn’t to say he doesn’t exist. However, two people that flew to the front of my thoughts were, Dylann Roof (Charleston Church shooter) and Stephen Paddock (Las Vegas shooter). Both men are/were white. With this logic, shouldn’t we be more afraid of white men?

People are too busy holding their purses close to their body when the young dark skinned man walks by, they don’t notice the white man with a suitcase full of guns and ammunition.

You Can’t Possibly Understand Tolstoy

I will not say that I’m not racist. I don’t think anyone can. Although there are many chest pounders who will claim color blindness. We have been separate for a very long time. Integration of bodies is easier than integration of minds. I’m sure there are some white people who see me and have pre-conceived notions. Whether they be that I’m a single mother on welfare or a poorly educated minimum wage worker. I’ve myself have seen purses held tighter as I pass. I wonder what they see when they see me. Or why they’d think I’d snatch their purse and run. It’s an automatic reaction, one that doesn’t seem to be able to be unlearned.

There is also this idea that African-Americans of a lighter hue have it easier. People have said to me, “You’re not really black because you’re light skinned.” This is an outdated idea that people still believe and adhere to. We’re not in the antebellum south and my light skin doesn’t ingratiate me to the white man. Perhaps on a subconscious level, the slight lack of melanin in my skin makes me seem safer or more approachable. As if the European blood that flows through me dampens my savage blackness.

One assumption that makes me both inwardly giggle and fume is the disbelief in the amount of education I’ve received. The utter shock that I have a Master’s degree seems to astound white individuals.

When I pull out a book by Hardy or Tolstoy, white people almost succumb to the vapours. As if reading classic English or Russian literature is reserved for the white race.

Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it. — From “A Confession” by Leo Tolstoy

The Education of a Black Woman

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I once read that African-American women are the most educated individuals in the United States. In 2013, The National Center for Education Statistics stated that 66% of African-American women held an Associate degree and 64% held a Bachelor’s. However, in a 2010 study, the Center for American Progress states that African-American females lag behind white women in education by 8.6%.

Putting these conflicting statistics to the side, many African-American women are educated, and hold advanced degrees. Though they are peppered throughout the demographic, the perceived and preferred view is that African-American women are poorly educated, on welfare and have several children from different fathers.

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” — Bell Hooks

A Hard Truth About Racism

I sometimes see a white person and have my own running commentary about their looks, their perceived status in this world, their hygiene and a myriad of other things. The things I see them do and hear them say astound me.

I’m not afraid of white people, I don’t feel that they are going to cause me physical harm, but it doesn’t make me any less of a racist. I won’t sugar coat it and say, “I’m just a little racist,” because there is no such thing. A person either is or isn’t. I’ve yet to meet anyone who falls entirely in the latter category.

I’ve grown tolerant of the fear and ignorance when it’s directed toward me. Words and perceptions belong to the people who say and think them. I’m not tolerant of the violence perpetrated on the marginalized, and it saddens me that some white people feel the violence is warranted. Yet others don’t acknowledge that racism exists in this country or in their hearts. I’ve heard people say, “The relationship between races is improving; after all we did have an African-American president.”

The only difference I see is that the whip was replaced by the hose which was then, replaced by the gun.

Essayist, Poet, and Fiction writer from New York City. Unglamorous superhero by day. Part-time English Professor by night.

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