June 11, 2020

Dear Younger Me,

I know you look at your blackness as something that makes you different from everyone else. So it’s bad. You never feel fully black, but obviously you weren’t white. To you, your blackness was a secret not-so-secret detail about you that you wrestle with in your private thoughts. You drift to these during private school, softball pictures, or class photos. In private school, you felt like you didn’t belong here. 

To our black friends, we are bougie and watered down. I know you haven’t changed since before you switched schools, but to them I had traded my blackness for a world of books, Stratton, and BMW’s. The saddest part is you do believe you did that and you’re content with that. You reject your blackness on most days, except when it rears its head into life. Which is going to happen more than you’d hope. You get mistaken for the only other black girl in your class. You’re going to feel everyone’s eyes on you when the teacher mentions slavery. It gives you this feeling that you want to run away, straighten your hair, and never look back (sometimes you still feel this way). Now you’re wondering when does this self-rejection stop. You’ll learn about people named Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland. With them, their race was seen as a weapon, for you it will become your strength. Because those three and many others were victims of police brutality and were stopped from using their blackness to empower themselves and their community. It will be your job. You’ll learn about MLK, Malcolm X, Rodney King, and the 13th Amendment. You asked your grandma and your yaya about their life and this time you factored in how amazing their accomplishments were in spite of and because of their race. You stopped tuning out the music at the cookouts. You continued to count as soon as you stepped in a room, but instead of seeing 1,2, you saw strength in those numbers. You realize that no matter your best efforts to turn us into something we’re not, society, the police, and future bosses will see us as just another black girl. You’re not. You are a black girl though, and we embrace it. You embrace the awful feeling that we can come to a violent end, screaming for air, and everyone would hear you, but nobody would listen. We listen, learn, we sign every petition, text every number, make calls, post informative but colorful insta stories, and watch documentaries. And yes, we still have our moments where it would be easier to put our head down and do nothing, but we can’t do that anymore. Because change must come and you don’t just get change, you’ll learn that you have to fight for it. Racism, the systems of inequalities, that allow police to step over a bleeding old man, or murder a man in broad daylight. 

So we keep fighting: me and you, us. So that these injustices of identity can never happen again, including our own.

Destiny Stephen

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