There was a time where the pinnacle of success to me, was to receive the acceptance and validation of a white person. The approval of my white teachers, of the white administrators, and the white police officers who stopped and frisked me every day as I walked home from school. I wanted them to see in me what I saw in them. If I was good enough and knew my place, one day all of the white man with the power to change my life would look down and proclaim I was someone!
For those who know me now, this probably sounds weird, but it's my ugly truth. I wanted to be seen, and appreciated by white people, I wanted to know what greatness felt like. I thought “greatness” meant white. If I could do that, it would mean that I had arrived, that I was worth something, that my life meant something. What I know now to be a lie, but what I thought then, was that by being Black, I was broken, a mistake, a glitch in the matrix. And because of this unforced error, I would need to do everything in my power to show I was more than my flawed skin.
I’m ashamed when I think of the lengths I went to in order to gain their approval. I refused to say the N-word, I stopped eating chicken, I turned my nose up to rap music, I secretly looked for skin whitening products, and even played around with the idea of joining the Republican Party. I jumped through hoops and contorted myself, begging for validation and attention, I hated everything about me and tried to mimic everything I thought was virtuous about them. All for a little pat on the back.
The secret about being Black in America is that no matter where you go or what you do, you will always be a nigga. It took me a long time to accept that. It didn’t matter what I did, or how well I dressed, in spite of all of the ten-dollar words, and shitty Creed songs I tried to learn, there was never going to be anything I could do to get white people to see the humanity in me. In reality, the only time they paid attention was to criminalize me.
It took watching Trayvon Martin being shot and killed in cold blood and then demonized by the same people whose affection I desired for me to understand that. I remember the disappointment I felt when while talking to a white friend, he expressed confusion at the anger over George Zimmerman. I pointed out that Trayvon was not armed, and was minding his own business, but it didn’t matter. When I pointed out that I could have easily been Trayvon, his response was, “You’re a large Black man, can you really be upset if someone shoots you because they’re afraid of what you might do?” Those comments ended that friendship and my fantasy. It’s been 8 years since he was murdered, it took that to pull me off the road to being an Uncle Tom.
White supremacy makes you think that because your skin is dark, and you don’t come from Europe, you are the problem. It tells you that the police have every right to shoot someone in the back seven times with his children present because Black people are savages. It tells the world that Black people have no humanity, nor do they deserve it, then proceed to show you exactly what they mean as they gaslight everyone while defending state-sanctioned violence.
The shooting of Jacob Blake doesn’t just hurt because I understand very clearly that I could one day be him. I have long come to terms with the fact that my life expectancy will decrease significantly when the police or white people, in general, are around. Even among a group of white allies, I am never completely at ease, because whiteness is an inherent threat to anyone who is Black. It’s an ugly truth, but it’s the truth.
The part that hurts my soul is the part of me that still has/had hope in white people. The part of me that believes white people need to be willing and able to join us in the fight against anti Blackness in order for us to successfully dismantle white supremacy. It’s the part of me that still clings to them being able to see me and others like me.
However, despite thousands of examples of Black people being terrorized by the police, Donald Trump’s consistent incompetence, and everyday white nonsense. There is still an overwhelming defense and dismissal of Black pain.
This isn’t a small subset of the whites, it’s actually still the majority. Whether they defend the indefensible, vote for white supremacists, or stay quiet when injustice happens, more white people show they are comfortable in their supremacy than they are mad at the harm. And because of that more Black people will die, more kids will be put in cages, and white supremacist groups like the NYPD and the Republican Party will continue to thrive.
Which brings me to where I am today. If white people continue to refuse to see how white supremacy harms not only us, but them, if they continue to look the other way, or even celebrate the real violence done to Black and Brown people, is there really a path to restoration?
Can we look at everything happening right now and not begin to question whether all this time it was white people who have lost their humanity? I want to believe in a world where we can all live together in harmony, and the poison of white supremacy is destroyed. But every day it gets harder to see that. It gets harder to trust that white people will show up, it gets harder to expect anything from them. Maybe I should have stopped a long time ago.