I read this piece by Questlove today and can’t get it out of my mind.
I recognized the honesty of Questlove’s story because it mirrors so many stories told by African American’s across the socio-economic spectrum…for those who have the courage to listen.
Also? As a 6’2 African American female, I have lived a portion of his truth. Many people are jarred when they first see me as they take in my height. Most of these people are White. Some shrink away from me, some don’t answer doors when I make business calls, and some are just rude and dismissive.
Their dislike, fueled by racism, and real or imaginary stereotypes, is hard enough to bear. But to see fear on someone else’s face because of your race and physicality is always deeply disturbing. It always blows your mind and creates cognitive dissonance. Especially, if like Amir describes, you have diligently worked to craft your demeanor, speech, or appearance so as to be less “threatening”…to no avail.
Like I did, for years, slumping in attempt to hide myself and diminish my stature. As if that was possible. Or, crafting my speech to not sound “ghetto” as if I could separate myself from the shadows of neo-racism. Or, most telling and shamefully, the years that I closed myself off from Black friends because of self hate that I failed to recognize and worked hard to overcome.
Disturbing psychological ramifications are manifold…
- The feeling that you will not be judged as individual no matter what you do.
- The knowledge that to some “people” you will never be “right” (or worthy of human consideration) because they have shrunk your human possibility and potential to fit in with what they’ve been told, taught, or see on some stupid ass reality show.
- The fact that you must find a way of coping with this injustice and work around the people and systems who uphold it in order to survive.
…is a pretty fucking horrible feeling.
I feel Questlove and honestly, I doubt there is a single African American who read this story that did not. I applaud him for the courage to speak on this deeply personal subject, in direct contradiction to his famed persona, and reveal his very human, vulnerability and pain.
No one knows the shoes you walk in.
We love to say that but sadly it’s not always true. Some parts of the human experience are not individual but collective.
And when the Zimmerman verdict was announced, the pain, the rage, the shame, the horror and the sadness seemed collectively shared by Black America. You could read it on social media and hear it on TV, all before the search for equality and justice took us to the streets again.
I have no children but if I did this is not the reality that I would wish them to grow up with. Pain, that they did not ask for or deserve. Realities that they must learn to cope with our be broken by. The psychological scars of racism that ‘post racial’ America would like to pretend does not exist, in order for some to assuage their guilt and for others to perpetuate the system which their forefathers created.
I learned of the verdict on Sunday and spent most of it in a black cloud.
It was NOT just another day…for millions of Americans.
I sobbed inconsolably for the Martin family and my people. Some unlucky person tried conversing with me on Twitter about Black on Black crime and how things would not change until we treated ourselves better. So great was my rage and pain that I nearly imploded. before I could combust I blocked her instead.
My overriding thought was how insane it is that my pain must be the lowest possible denomination of what my ancestors must have felt, in the 60’s, in the 50’s, in the 40’s, in the 30’s…going back to the 18th century.
But America has changed, yes?
It has not changed enough and we must demand for future generations that it does.