Life

Things I denied Myself

Things I have denied myself

I have denied myself the pleasure of wearing my hair in any style

Lest I be considered “one of them”

I have denied myself the pleasure of association

Lest I be considered “one of the bad ones”

I have denied myself the pleasure of fashion

Lest I be associated as someone who is “radical” or “black”

I have denied myself the pleasure of Ebonics

Lest I be considered “uneducated”

I have denied myself the pleasure of any college

Lest when I apply to jobs I will be considered “black”

I have denied myself the pleasure of neighborhoods

Lest my zip code exposes who I am

I have denied myself the pleasure of truth

Lest I be seen reading a book that will make me less desirable, that will make people uncomfortable with me

I have denied myself anger and expression

Lest I be considered an “angry black women”

It is not that I personally made these decisions because I thought one way was better than the other, but it is the truth that I was afraid

Afraid that because of my economic status I would lose a sense of importance if I began to act anything but “culturally white”

This is not the fault of my mind, but yet the fault of a system of assimilation and racism

Which beckons me to act a certain way to maintain my “status”

I did not listen to loud rap music with the windows rolled down despite my enjoyment of such tunes

Rather driving through neighborhoods I played classical music, opera, pop, and jazz to prove my sense of “culture”

I did not want to undo my mother’s hard work to bring us up to a certain economic class, by being like one of “them”

This is the daily system of denial that we live in

To be black and to act a certain way to prove our “worth”

It is not enough to live and be educated; one must not slip into anything considered “black culture”

I justified this by calling myself “unique” by saying I was expressing “individuality”, but it was not individuality, but rather assimilation into “white middle class culture”

Even when I tried to buy a certain car, moving from a standard middle class suburban car to a Honda civic, I saw how “driving while black” affects me.

I have been afraid. Afraid since the death of Travon Martin to wear a hoodie anywhere without first putting on “respectable” clothes and high boots to prove that I am a black female, not a young black male looking for trouble.

Instead of wearing my coat jacket hood, I opt for a red hat; it is easier to be identified as a woman that way

And in case I would be stopped I would talk in the way I was taught

“See? See? How my pronunciation and words give my life value?”

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