I’m black and grew up in the US. This is how it feels to live within racism you see on TV
I feel like there’s a target on my back, constantly
Living in America is one big fever dream. If you didn’t already know, a fever dream is when one is incredibly sick to the point where they become confused, begin to hallucinate and fall out of touch with reality. The sickness in America is the constant racism and anti-blackness black and brown people face daily. And our “hallucination” is our expression about how we feel towards it, only for it to be blatantly disregarded and unseen.
Being a young black woman here during this time means to be uncomfortable, challenged and not in the kind of way that brings about positive change, but rather like being picked on relentlessly by the school bully for no apparent reason. The earliest presence of that I can recall was me being stereotyped by the opposing team’s parents every. single. game. during my little league soccer games for being the “aggressive” athlete. I was the only black child on the field majority of those games.
Growing up in New York City especially, it’s not uncommon for your blackness to “catch up with you” in a negative way. Even outside my very own high school, in a public park, a police officer threatened to arrest me and my friend while we were waiting for our after-school club to start because some local residents called and mistook us for “dealers”. Not properly explaining himself and threatening our safety we fled to our school and cried to our advisor moments later. It seems like at every avenue, every cornerstone of society there is always something or someone that will literally use every fibre of it’s being to remind you that no matter how small your bubble is, you being black will never be championed and will always be seen as a threat or less than.
It’s in the aggressive nature people speak to you with, or the assumptions automatically placed on you as soon as your skin colour is seen, being black right here right now is like having a bullseye on your back. Whether or not people around you are actively aiming at it is a different story, but that anxiety, that constant unwavering feeling that sits on the back of your neck is always there. It creeps up on me when I feel the stares in high end designer stores by sales associates who think I can’t afford their merchandise, and readily are willing to call their security on me. I feel it when I’m rejected for opportunities, only to see my peers with exact or credentials receive them. You would think that in one of the most diverse cities in the world that wouldn’t be the case, but here we are.
Currently it’s feels as though the U.S as a whole pushes and pushes and pushes for racist thought to be expressed. The only difference between now and the past though is that you have a lengthier list of names of those who’ve died to trail right behind it, and live videos for the rest of the world to see. When I look at Ahmaud Arbury, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and the many more black men and women who have been killed due to the outright acceptance of racism in this country, I begin to feel fearful and weary.
I feel fearful because I know based off of my skin colour alone I can be targeted, by people, the police, anyone, and my cries will not be heard or properly cared for. In the faces of the victims I see my brother, my father, my mom, my family, my friends and lastly myself. In their deaths, I see the long lasting scars that their families and communities will have to care for, with absolutely no help from their nation. No amount of educational, financial, or social advantage I may receive in this lifetime can change the fact that if I was in the same position as each of those people I mentioned above, I’d have the same fate.
For me, and those around me this brings about a mental toll that for us can’t be wiped away overnight. I have friends that even have known the families of some of the victims and I know people who live in the communities affected by the aftermath. How can we properly serve a country that does not acknowledge this pain and struggle? How can we be upstanding citizens, when we don’t even have an upstanding country to lead by example?
This is why me and my friends and those I love protest, donate, and actively work and fight against it everyday, because we face it everyday. We face it in our universities, in our workplaces, in our medical institutions, in our neighbourhoods and many more areas to the point where we are losing places of refuge. Places where we can take a long, much needed breath and say our blackness has not “caught up with us”. We are losing, and virtually barely had to be quite honest, the common respect for our lives in our country.
And although this is based off of my experience here in the States, I know other black and brown people around the globe face many similarities, especially in countries like Canada and the UK. We reside in progressive first world countries, but are they truly progressive if the colour of our skin bears a painful price? Racism and anti-blackness like I said is a sickness, and it’s about time the world ought to find an antidote.
Related stories recommended by this writer: