Just Another Day
Trigger Warning: Police Brutality
My day starts like any other. I wake up, grab my phone from underneath my pillow, and immediately check my email.
The past few weeks I have diligently answered several ads for nannies or babysitters on care.com, and today have received more rejection letters from white parents.
I try to be my usual bubbly self in my responses to ads for “smart, reliable babysitters,” but somehow my education, seven years of experience, and references are not enough for them.
I try to push away the thought that this is more than a coincidence. Still, I vow to only answer ads from black families, just in case.
Next, I check my social media. Another name is trending. This time it’s Alton Sterling, a father of five who the police shot execution style for…absolutely no reason. I try to scroll past the racist tweets that are always regurgitated after an unarmed black person is murdered by law enforcement.
“He was a thug.”
“He was resisting.”
“What about black on black crime?”
I toss my phone to the edge of the bed. It’s too much.
As much as I wanted my day to end there, I shower, get dressed, and decide to go to a coffee shop to do work. I need to apply to more jobs, and I try to get over myself and the exhaustion I feel knowing what will come next:
The butchering of my name.
Having to explain to another hiring manager (/white savior) why I, a black woman and a first generation college graduate, am more than qualified to work with students of color from underserved communities because they are just. like. me.
Explaining with as much enthusiasm I can gather that I am the mirror reflecting their endless possibilities.
The “we’ve decided to go in a different direction” rejection email.
Obsessively checking the organization’s “Meet The Team” page for weeks after to see who they’ve filled the position with. More often than not, the direction they went in was white.
I try to end the pity party going on in my mind and leave my apartment. I live in the Brooklyn neighborhood Bedford Stuyvesant — it’s “up and coming.” I walk past the luxury apartments being built. I think of the future tenants who wouldn’t dare be seen at the bus stop just outside their door. In six months I won’t be able to afford to live in this neighborhood.
I arrive at the coffee shop. The barista brusquely takes my order. I leave a generous tip in the jar to fight that stereotype. I take a sip of my overpriced coffee while taking in my surroundings. This “hip” coffee shop feels so out of place between the neglected and dilapidated brownstones. I’m the only black person actually in it — the other trendy Brooklynites are ignoring the black man begging for change outside.
The cafe is blasting one of The Notorious B.I.G’s posthumous albums, yet it’s jarring in this environment. I don’t think this is the Brooklyn where Biggie grew up.
I know I’m not going to get any work done there so I walk home. On the way, I find “I was here” spray painted on the sidewalk.
I’m jolted out of the stupor I’ve been in all day. I was here.
How satisfying. I was here.
I want to scream that at the top of my lungs. I want the pain I feel to be noticed.
I was here. I am here! Do you see me?
I quickly snap a picture. I need to keep this with me. I step over the letters, fighting back tears. I don’t feel like I’m “here.” I don’t feel like I belong. I don’t feel seen at all.
If I were to die at the hands of a trigger happy officer tomorrow, would people march in the streets? Or would my hashtag get lost among the others?
I walk through the park, past a homeless man asleep in the shade.
I return to my apartment. I’m the only black person living here. I wash the dishes in the sink again. I try to remove the clutter that’s on the kitchen table. Again. “I’ve become the mammy,” I think to myself as I retreat to my room. I roll around in bed for a while, thinking of Alton Sterling, of Sandra Bland, of Renisha McBride, of Eric Garner, of the people I love who might be next. If I’ll be next.
But I was here. I was here. I was here.