The month of February which is Black History Month, has always been a month that I have found very important and interesting because as an African American woman, I like to celebrate my history because I feel as though we must all learn from it to move toward something new. Though I like to acknowledge the achievements of African American people such as Lewis Latimer, a black man who improved the light bulb filament so that it would last longer than a couple of days. The same filament Thomas Edison later used to make a better light bulb. Some people (a lot of Americans) like to downplay the contributions of the African American community because they’d rather ignore the systematic injustice that led to the overlooking of these accomplishments, than to acknowledge that people of color have made not only substantial contributions to America but also the world.
As an African American who grew up with predominantly white people, my whole life has been walking a tightrope between being true to who I am, what I believe in and trying not to hurt the feelings of people who should, in all honesty, not be a concern to me. As a small child from the suburbs, I had to hear the statement “you’re not really black, you don’t act like it”. This statement that some of my white friends thought to be a “compliment” was just a way to try and other me from who I am, and distance themselves from the word black which they found derogatory connotations or not good enough. My “friends” said this because in their mind, the fact that I did not talk in a manner that they thought to be “ghetto” made me a special snowflake. They thought i was not aware of what I saw when I looked into the mirror, but the cold hard truth of the matter is that the world around me sees me as black before they see anything else. I’m aware of my skin color, I embrace who I am because being a black person in America has shaped me into who I am. My color isn’t the most important thing about me but it is important.
The attempt to other me in high school has just made me an even stronger believer now that I’m in college. I must know who I am and what I stand for in order to be a woman of color not only in the south of all places but also America. The sad thing is that my experience as a black person is so incredibly common, the utter dismissal that is received when we demand that our ancestors get the recognition they deserved then and now is downright disrespectful.
This article is me shedding light on my experience with systematic racism and how it affects me because having your existence trivialized so that a group of people don’t have to feel “uncomfortable” (or guilty) is so utterly demeaning and I think that it’s something America as a whole is going to have to fix.