I tried to fly under the radar racially. A realization dawned on me. I grew up and recognized regardless of how I acted, what I listened to, what I dressed like, I would still be seen through other people’s lenses of what a Black woman in America is like.
I wrote the following in response to that message and immediately deleted it:
I think the problem is the Oscar Academy rarely looks at minority written/produced/actors seriously. It’s not like this is something new. Unless it’s a movie about slavery. Just like the academy is 97 percent white guys. There’s a little bit of an assumption in your post that the products work made by minorities aren’t “good” enough. So they’d just be getting a bone thrown at them for being a minority. I find that problematic.
I just can’t do it today. Not for a while now. I can’t be the token black person educating everyone on everything minority. Explaining the nuances of problems and the history behind an issue. Getting to the core as to why other Blacks are upset about a thing. Blacksplaining.
Disclaimer: My friend who posted that question on her Facebook is a kickass woman and I by no means am trying to drag her or throw shade her way. That’s not what this is about.
It started with Trayvon Martin. I shared every single post I found about blacks being killed by police officers in the U.S. statistics about incarcerations and arrests. I was a keyboard warrior going to bat for this kid the only way I could, the only way I knew how, the written word.
As a black woman from an incredibly rural state where there were only two shades of minority-black and Northerners, I always felt like I had to act a certain way, be a certain way. I didn’t want to be perceived as that kind of Black. The kind that was always on COPS. The Black that wasn’t so articulate, well-spoken, who only listened to hip hop and had no idea about any nerdy aspects of life. I didn’t want to be anybody’s token example of what was wrong in America.
“I’m not your token. I’m not going to go down to the basement a play some funky bass,” I said once to a group of friends, referring to Token from South Park. They laughed and thought it was hilarious, but there’s sometimes a little truth in humor.
So, I stayed out of what could be perceived as “minority” issues and I tried not to engage in a lot of heated race debates. I tried to fly under the radar racially. A realization dawned on me. I grew up and recognized regardless of how I acted, what I listened to, what I dressed like, I would still be seen through other people’s lenses of what a Black woman in America is like. I had to be true to me.
Then social media exploded and there became a place where I could talk about these things. I could educate people. I could be a part of a conversation. I could engage and try to further the cause of equality and justice. I could stand up for what I believed in.
Oh there’s always a but–
My words don’t seem to have any type of effect. I’m not changing things. I’m yelling in a wind tunnel, my words are lost, and my throat is sore. It’s hard to stand up straight, when the wind is constantly battering at your mind and your heart.
I’m so exhausted.
There’s always something happening. Always someone like ‘Clueless’ Stacy Dash, who has skin the color of mine, but a bigger platform and a bigger need for attention. Who, when it’s convenient, will work for all black companies and casts, but somehow also thinks this is supporting segregation. Should I have to Blacksplain to her why the deletion of BET will not be taking an eraser to racism? Does it even matter?
What does matter? I’m tired of telling people that All Lives Matter is a bit of a misnomer. I don’t want to explain why Black Lives Matter means “in addition to” all lives as opposed to “only.” Sometimes it feels like these mistakes people make are too intuitive. As though they’re being deliberately obtuse. Comparing the people who believe in this cause to hate groups and terrorists cells when they’re not the ones with all of the unchecked power.
Let’s not even go into every problematic thing that Trump has said. I don’t have the time or the energy to discuss that farce.
Wind tunnels again.
For a time, I thought of Social Justice Warrior as a badge of honor. Yes, I do go say as much as I can, when I can, about social justice issues.
Or at least I did.
I feel like I’m suffering from some form of SJW battle fatigue. Blacksplaining and a general lack of understanding has caused me to feel like the effort that goes into trying to change things on a social media platform is absolutely wasted. So, I’m diagnosing myself as exhausted and taking a break from trying to change the world one click at a time.
Tamara Woods was raised (fairly happily) in West Virginia, where she began writing poetry at the age of 12. Her first poetry collection “The Shaping of an ‘Angry’ Black Woman” (spoiler alert- she’s not angry) is available at Amazon. She is currently the Editor of The Reverie Poetry Journal. She also maintains her poetry/fiction blog PenPaperPad in addition to writing articles as a full-time freelance writer. She is a hillbilly hermit in Honolulu living with her Mathmagician drinking coffee and reading comics. Tamara has been featured in Tipsy Lit, In the Powder Room, The Reverie Journal, Poem in Your Pocket (Hawaii Edition). You can alaso find Tamara on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Photo via flickr.com.