A Defining Moment: Racism and Double Consciousness

Click here to hear me read this post.

My mother and I at one of our favorite spots.

Being young, black and southern must be synonymous with experiences of discrimination, fear and hatred. Show me a young, black southerner who hasn’t had to deal with direct racism and I’ll show you a severely unaware individual.

With that being said, one of my earliest memories of racism came Halloween 1997. My mom had allowed me to go trick or treating with some kids who lived in a local housing project. My mother had taught the girl and she was close to my age.

In our small town America, (voted best small town to visit btw) has always been and still is divided by a railroad. For their reasons, white people prefer to live separate from us. And even when black doctors and judges moved into their neighborhoods, they either move, or erect an enormous, thick cinderblock wall to serve as a fence.

My mother had dropped me off with this girl, her mother and a few other children. Her mother had said we were going trick or treating on the “other” side of town, noting that they had “better” candy; however, I’m sure there was a thought about it possibly being safer as well.

Smile BIG!

We stopped at an apartment building really close to Delta State University. Our small group walked up to this door and knocked. An old white, lady with grey hair opened the door. When she saw us, her mouth gapped open and she began throwing candy at us. She yelled, “yall are not supposed to be over here!” Then, somehow she noticed me. A little fair-skinned (I was much lighter when I was younger) girl with long, wavy hair (likely from my mother’s long “dookey” braids) and she paused for a moment. She gave a sort of blank stare, and slammed the door shut.

LOVE THAT SWEATSHIRT!

This was one of the first moments that I realized how deep and serious this divid really was. It made me wonder. Why did she hate us so much? Was she scared? If so, why? We were just children hunting for candy. We weren’t trying to harm or scare anyone. This was when I started to realize that not all black children had the same experience. A part of me wondered why she paused and stared at me, before forcefully shutting her door.

This was a defining moment. It was when I began to realize I must be aware of my surroundings. I must be aware of myself, and how others may perceive me. As a 7 year old, I must prove that there is nothing to be afraid of. #doubleconsciousness

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An Unexpected Visit Home

Friday, January 27, 2017

This Tuesday morning, I received a text message at 5 am, but instead of reading it, I decided to cling to my pillow a little longer. 30-45 minutes later I awoke to the news, one of my beloved uncles had transitioned. Immediately, my cousin and I texted back and forth. Shamefully, I didn’t have his number saved. From there I spoke with my cousin in Chicago, Memphis and then my mother who had gone to the hospital to be with my uncle, his wife and children.

School that day was unusually good. I found myself crying in my morning class as my students consoled me, ignorant of what happened. My second class seemed to have been sensitive and supportive again, without knowledge of the circumstances.  And my third class, they joyfully pushed me to work, hard.

I thought about my uncle. How goofy and funny he was. How he and his family had been on my mind constantly the past few weeks. How I’d felt ashamed that I hadn’t really talked to them recently. How I had gone home to visit without spending much time at all with him and his family.

As I checked online for airfare, I quickly realized the short notice trip would be more expensive than I could afford. Megabus is almost worthless from Nola being there are only 3 destinations, Memphis not being one of them. I was reluctant to drive, knowing I’d be extremely tired upon my return and teaching; you have to reserve the much needed energy to expel in the classroom.

Greyhound was the choice. I figured I could read, write and think without having to be too too concerned with the road. Did I mention when I’m not driving I often get motion sickness? Unless, someone I trust is driving.

This week, school had been extremely chaotic, and the children haven’t been the cause. The adults have. Standing between women, who can’t squash a disagreement from three years ago and continuously go back and forth, was the cause of many headaches. Including the fact I had my own ideas to meditate on, a part of me embraced taking Friday off for my travel home to Mississippi.

Friday morning, I clung hard to my pillow again. Unlike me. I didn’t have a friend to take me to the bus station, so I reserved an Uber. Running late, I missed my 8:50AM bus.

My Uber driver and I talked for a few minutes about his football career at a school in Mississippi, a beautiful, sweet woman he’d met and foolishly let get away, and how once his divorce was finalized, he would find her.

Talk about disharmony, I was feeling it. Though I was ready to accept the consequences of my being late, the employees of greyhound went out of their way to accommodate me.

After some consultation, a driver agreed to allow me to ride with him to Baton Rouge.

The bus driver and I talked about his home, Nigeria, some customs and how they differ from America, and how he hopes to soon one day settle and have his own family. He, too, said he wasn’t ready to settle when he had the opportunity.

As I made my way home to see my family, I thought about the poem I was writing and would share at my uncle’s funeral, how I’d missed opportunities to love on my Uncle and other family members, and how often we exist in the same space without actually connecting with one another.

I love him very much. He was the first loved one (that I really knew) I’ve had to transition. My first real encounter with death.

I anxiously traveled down the long country road to my grandparents rural and modest estate. There were cars everywhere, family and friends everywhere. Sad occasion but grand gathering.

Going into the house, I was initially afraid to look anyone in their eyes, scared of what I’d find. People were strong. I knew I had to be. My uncle was one who loved laughter and fun.

We must take time to connect, to love, and to appreciate the ones we love. Let’s not be so consumed with our own lives that we neglect to revel in the now. 

 

 

Don’t end up on the casting couch!

 

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It was 2010 and I was a 20 year old senior in college. I was sitting in a somewhat uncomfortable Jury meeting with three people who all served, at some point or another as my professors, directors and mentors. It was tense and certain parts even a little hard to deal with. One of my professors asked that I submit a written code of ethics. They all agreed about their concern that I could potentially end up on someone’s “casting couch”. While, initially it was a bit offensive I later understood what they were trying to communicate. In my mind, me ending up on someone’s casting couch was NEVER an option, and it hurt a little that people I thought knew me well were unsure of that. They felt that I was naive and while this term was used to describe me a lot I regarded it with the deepest resentment. In my mind the word naïve was synonymous with foolish and unintelligent. I am a seeker of knowledge and curious by nature so I didn’t take too kindly to this stigma. But that is an entirely different story within itself.

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In the process of doing this assignment I gained an understanding. When you don’t stand for something, you can and will inevitably fall for anything. If people don’t consciously think about what they will and won’t do to get the things they want, they could end up doing things they never thought possible. Things that could cost them money, assets, relationships (professional and personal), their self-respect/dignity and the list could go on to infinity.

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When a person is strict about what they will and will not do and what they will and will not accept it is evident in the very essence of their being. That alone will cut out majority of the bull, however there are still some people who want to push the boundaries.
I challenge you, make a conscious effort to think about this. What are you not comfortable doing, even if it means you gain success, money, power and relationships? No matter what industry you are in, doesn’t matter what your dreams are. Don’t compromise, not at all! Don’t end up on your version of the “casting couch”.

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