Time for me to talk about race.

Time for me to talk about race | My Fabulous Boobies

There is a fine line between being honest and transparent... and being palatable for the masses.  

Back in the spring, I was in New York City for a meeting about metastatic breast cancer. I was the only black woman at the meeting (didn't bother me) and the only survivor who wasn't metastatic. Because the meeting took place a few weeks after the riots in Baltimore and because I am a born and raised Maryland girl (I live about 40 miles from Baltimore and have friends and family in both Baltimore city and Baltimore county)... I hoped that Baltimore and subsequent topics about race would not come up in conversation.

It did.

The first night.

I deflected.

In hindsight, I am slightly ashamed of that deflection.

I often keep silent because I don't think people are really ready for my thoughts

I was asked why I had not written anything about Baltimore on this blog and I think I responded that I was still processing my feelings about it. Which was partially true but not entirely so. The full truth is that while I didn't condone the violence that broke out in Baltimore, I did understand it. I understood that there were nuances to the rage (and its media coverage) that were not being addressed and discussing it would have ruined the dinner conversation had I dived in headfirst to share. I understood what happened and I felt the anger and pain and anguish that the black residents of Baltimore felt after Freddie Gray's death.

Same as I understood Ferguson. (Mike Brown)

And New York.  (Eric Garner)

And Madison. (Tony Robinson)

And Dayton. (John Crawford)

And Cleveland. (Tamir Rice, 12 years old)

And Sanford. (Trayvon Martin, 17 years old)

And Oakland. (Oscar Grant)

I can go on... but I won't.

See, those names are simply towns and cities to most, but to me they represent deaths that should not have happened. Same as Charleston. Deaths rooted in a belief that black people are inferior.

While, to some, the past few years may have highlighted some unfortunate deaths that do not necessarily seem connected... to me and many other black people... they all are branches from the same root. Racism. Racism that is rooted in white supremacy. White supremacy that was exercised in this nation via slavery, then Jim Crow and legal segregation, up to today where we have laws meant to protect citizens from being targeted by racist terrorists that are routinely overlooked or skirted around.

Things have changed but not enough

Remember the movie, Sixth Sense? Where the cute little boy told Bruce Willis' character that he sees dead people? My life is similar. But instead of dead people... I see racists and racism. All around. All the time. In the most inopportune and unimaginable places. I don't see all of it, but I certainly see quite a bit. In order to function though, like that little boy... I have learned to live my life without always telling the ghosts that I see them. Because the ghosts can't usually handle that truth. And I still must navigate this world along with them.

Being silent is not the answer

I am now seeing how my silence plays a part in the ongoing problem. Hence this post today.

A lot of Americans (of all races) believed that the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's fixed our problem with racial terrorism. A lot of Americans believed that the election of President Barack Obama meant that we no longer have issues with racism in this nation. I can honestly tell you that neither is true.

I think that now, after the tragic deaths of nine innocent people at bible study... more people are seeing that we still have a huge problem in this country. I believe that understanding is a start. Just as I believe that removing the confederate flag (150 years after the end of the civil war no less) is a good start.

But here's the thing: All racism isn't overt like the murders of innocent bible study participants. Sometimes it is really innocuous and subtle.

Selectively choosing which parts of history you will accept perpetuates the problems of racism

Things like... ignoring history and not researching for yourself what the confederate soldiers were fighting for and choosing to adopt instead the stance that the confederate flag represented southern heritage and southern pride.

Southern pride sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Acknowledging and honoring your heritage sounds noble. Until you actually read the history for yourself and you realize that the confederacy was explicitly fighting for the right to keep African people enslaved and in chains in order to profit from their free labor. And the reason that the confederate states wanted to secede from the union was because they did not feel that slaves were equal to white people.

The truth is what it is. 

We have to see it, understand it, acknowledge it before we can even hope to move on from it. We can't fix what we refuse to even see as a problem. And right now... we have a major problem in America with race.

I am a daughter of Maryland. The state that produced both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. My parents are from Alabama and North Carolina. States that produced the hatred that killed four little black girls in Sunday school and the antagonism and assault of teenagers at lunchroom counters. I have grown up with the stories of racism's effects on people who look like me and I have never had the luxury of believing that it could not happen to me. I carry this understanding on my shoulders at all times. It is for my safety that I do.

We have to stop isolating these racial injustices as unique occurrences. They are not that. 

I've heard the comments, "if he didn't run from the police, he wouldn't have died..." and "that murderer was a lone wolf, he acted alone"... and I know that many of you really believe this. I know you do. I do not. I cannot. Because the same country that created Dylan Roof created the system of laws that says it is of vital importance to treat young black men as criminals. The same nation created a situation where a young white man can look at an entire community of people and blame them for the problems in his life and choose to execute them in cold blood... and also created a situation where a 12-year-old little boy playing in a park with a toy gun can be reported as suspicious and shot and killed in less than 2 seconds by police officers. These are roots of the same tree. Not isolated incidents.

That someone can look at a black child and see terror in his playing outside but can look at a young white man and see his humanity and his frailty as he killed nine people after sitting with them in bible study for an hour... baffles me. Yet, this is the world that we live in.

If you follow me on facebook (my personal page) and on twitter (my personal account), then you already are aware that racism in America is something that I am passionate about. I've been ranting and going off about this since the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer. Believe me when I say that I could easily discuss this topic for many days and still only scratch the surface of what I'm feeling, what I believe and what I know. This thing is deep.

What has cut me to my core most recently is the realization (and acceptance) that perhaps we simply are not better than this as a nation. 

To be clear, I hold Dylan Roof accountable for the nine lives that he took recently. He made the plans, he pulled the trigger... he is responsible. But I am also casting a side-eye at our country and at the communities that engage in conversations in private about how "those people" are and how "it's their own fault that they're poor, under-educated, under-employed, on drugs, living in the ghetto"... while smiling and saying "hey girl, I love your hair like that" when they see me in public.

I know that there is a fundamental lack of understanding of just how systemic racism is in this nation. Slavery ended 150 years ago, but in many ways black people have still been legally held in a lower caste to allow white people the opportunities to flourish and grow. I'm only slightly bitter about that. Mostly, I am really very sad about it.

Why I'm speaking out now and on this platform

I wrote and shared this post because a blogger that I respect called out black bloggers on twitter recently and I felt convicted by her words. Although she specifically mentioned black beauty bloggers (because of their reach and influence), I felt convicted by her chastising about our collective silence on our platforms. A spirited debate sprung up among many black bloggers and I realized that not all of us felt the same conviction to share our truth, or the ability and desire to risk diluting our voices or our brands with a conversation that is "off-brand". Since all of us cannot or will not share, that only convicted me further that I must share.

My tears over so many deaths have given me the courage to share my voice

The weight of this post is heavy. I understand what is at risk. I could lose followers. I could turn off brands who may have wanted to work with me. I could lose money. Very real consequences for speaking my truth. However, what I have gained today is my voice. And as a blogger who is constantly reevaluating her purpose in her writings and her sharings... getting back my voice is probably the most powerful thing of all for me.

In hindsight, I wish that I had the courage to speak out after each injustice in real time. My thoughts in the moment were probably more powerful and more salient than this post.

I will leave you with the thoughts I shared the other day on my other blog... "Why Am I SO Hated In My Own Country?" | Yes, We Rise.

If you've made it to the end of this post, I thank you immensely for that. Publishing this post is more difficult for me than I care to admit. But it is my hope that we will be able to move forward from this place and I think that we can only do that with authentic, honest conversations.

Thank you for listening.

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