Thoughts from One of Those Black People7/26/2014
Hi, my name is Randie Henderson and I am “one of those black people” but I often find myself wonder...
Hi, my name is Randie Henderson and I am “one of those black people” but I often find myself wondering “why am I doing this?” I also find myself praying and trying to understand why God did not give me a passion for dolphins, trees, or cars, but instead gave me a passion for justice, education, and resistance—in short, people. This passion is hard, difficult, and personal. I literally internalize every failure, every turned head, and every apathetic shrug from black people who believe I am out of my mind. In exhaustion I try to explain that I do not know how to love them or myself silently and because of this, I do not know how to passively address racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression and terrorism that directly affect me and them daily.
Somewhere between 1992-2014 my fight or flight kicked in and I chose to fight, and in my fight I’ve learned that for some, loving themselves take the form of weekly manicures, alone time, bike rides, ending unhealthy relationships, or no longer drinking and smoking, however for me, loving myself takes the form of speaking and telling the whole truth. How long have I lived in my pain and in my silence thinking that it would take care of me? Even the greats knew how silly this concept was: Audre Lorde once said “your silence will not protect you,” and it really won’t. Being quiet never stopped a white person from calling me the N-word, being quiet never put my body image issues that prioritized Eurocentric ideals of beauty to rest, and unless I was planning a surprise, being quiet never aided in the betterment of my relationship and friendships. It wasn’t until I took proactive action and spoke up that my life began to change. So why should I be quiet and stop giving myself the love I deserve?
I am “one of those black people” because when it comes to humanity, I do not debate, coddle, or pacify. When I hear people swear to me that “reverse” anything like racism, discrimination, or prejudice exists it becomes clear to me that they have not learned that because we as a people do not take language and definitions as seriously as we should, we use words interchangeably without recognizing we’re using words wrong. Using racism where discrimination should be and vice versa is a lot like using “your” where “you’re” should be. It does not work. It literally changes the sentence, and using “reverse” is equally damaging and wrong.
And to make matters worse, when I find myself trying to calmly explain what racism, discrimination, and prejudice actually mean the conversation has already ended and I am told “can’t nobody ever tell you nothing!”
Me: *blinks quickly*
Why am I doing this? When more often than not I catch people shifting in their seat whenever they have to acknowledge something hard and cutting their eyes at me because I initiated the conversation?
Why am I doing this? When it seems like people couldn’t care less? How many times have I been told by someone “I just don’t have the time,” “I can’t be bothered,” “I can’t think about that kind of stuff,” “I just wanna [insert thing they just want to do]”
Why am I doing this?
I am doing this because I get it. Shoot, even now there are some things I just can’t see, can’t watch, or read because I fear it will send me over the edge. Some days it’s too much, but that is only some days.
It is not my duty to erase racism. Like in all the movies, to pick the lock, disengage the bomb, find the key, you have to go back to the source, and I and every other black person and non-black person of color are not the creators or cause of racism. Racism is not ours. It is the one thing that white people can sincerely call (though they won’t) all their own.
It is however my duty to acknowledge and help eradicate the ways black people and non-black people of color perpetuate racism by internalizing racism and believing that politics of respectability actually work. It is my duty because I am not sitting with this passion to wear myself out, this could not have been given to me for no reason. It is my duty to help and to speak because it is the right thing to do, and because I don’t believe in “that’s just the way it is”—this does not sit well with me, in fact, it collides with my love for myself and if I were to accept this train of thought it would sacrifice and make my humanity debatable.
I am in the end, proud to be one of those black people, and one of those black women, and I recognize that I am not, will not, and cannot do this on my own, and so I am thankful for the community of “those black people” that have encouraged my voice through their own work, accomplishments, and belief that it is okay to demand and expect more.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Randie Henderson is a Gates Millennium Scholar and recent college grad. She is driven to write, read, learn, and educate about ways to dismantle oppression in America and globally because she is passionate about people and justice. You can find her on randiejourney.tumblr.com and Black Women's Blueprint on Facebook.