To Be Black in America

railroad crossing sign

I am exhausted because I know that no statement I can make is something that hasn’t been said, and no solution I can suggest hasn’t been tried once before. No artful combination of words declaring what is good, and right, and true, will be news to you. My toolbox isn’t equipt to repair what defies logic.

I am lost, but in these words, I am found.

I want nothing more than to turn my back on this land that has raised me while simultaneously screaming, “YOU DO NOT BELONG.” Though I know if I were to run and, in a few years, hear that the screaming side had won, I would be destroyed. I would be to blame. And so I stay.

To be Black in America is to fear for your life, every day of your life. And to be unsurprised if it is taken from you.

To be Black in America is to be stripped of your choice, your choice to be neutral because there is no place for neutrality in the face of those who want you to disappear.

To be Black in America is to stay in an abusive relationship. When she’s good, she is so damn good… So damn good you almost forget the last time she almost beat you to death. She didn’t mean it. She’s sorry. She’s trying to do better. She loves you. You love her too.

To be Black in America is to be feared. For nothing.

To be Black in America is to be forced to run a marathon on broken glass. A marathon whose path erupts in flames behind you so you cannot turn back, because back is only worse. A marathon on a road with no shoulder so you cannot take a rest, grab a snack, or catch your breath. A marathon whose finish line is running as fast as you are.

To be Black in America is to live with an unrequited love.

I stay in a country that values currency over community. A country that categorized me by my outward identity, before I was even aware that it was “different.” A country that makes it hard to look my own father in the eye. A country that believes itself to have been great, in the days when those who disagreed were hung from trees like ornaments, their stories deleted from history like a typo.

Whether your ancestors were enslaved by the chain or the law, every Black person in America inherits the history of the Black people who came before them. We are born into the fight. We have to choose to survive.

To be Black in America is to continue to sing songs of tight shackles and liberating keys. Of perseverance in adversity, when adversity feels so strong.

Of rivers, and railroads, and crawling on your bloody knees. Of a God in the Heavens who knew your worth all along.

And so I stay. I stay to rebut the “YOU DONT BELONG,” with a blazing “OH YES I DO.”

I stay to see the sun rise on the morning that we will be able to sing something new.

I stay because these songs were for me, and they are for my children, who will be Black in America, too.

I am exhausted. I am frightened. I am furious.
I am faithful.

The world won’t get no better
If we just let it be
The world won’t get no better
We gotta change it, just you and me

Change is a-coming, whether you’re ready or not. We are.


*Needless to say, my experience as a Black woman in America, is different from the experiences of other Black people in America. I speak for no one but myself. If you feel the same, I hope you find solidarity in my words. If you don’t, tell me your truth.



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