The anger I feel today is no different from the anger I felt a year ago, or the years before that. None of this is new for black people. As a black woman, mother, educator, significant other, and writer – every day is a protest. As soon as I step out of my home I am watching my back, and prepared to defend myself. I understand how quickly I could lose my life because of my skin color, and I’ve had that understanding since I was a child. My parents were very open about racism and the hardships I may endure throughout my adolescence. There was a plan in place for emergencies related to my safety. I knew important addresses and phone numbers by memory from a very young age. Often my parents would give me scenario-based quizzes and “what if” tests to ensure that I understood how to carry myself in this society.
I think the first formal introduction I had to systemic and educational racism was when I learned about Ruby Bridges. In elementary school, I remember being introduced to a book that provided colorful images and the storytelling of a black girl who was the first to desegregate a school in New Orleans. My teacher also showed us a short video, and over twenty years later I recollect a scene where the police had to guide Ruby into the school as racists shout out hateful comments. As a little girl, I thought about how brave she must be. Now that I am a mother, my heart breaks to know that one day I too will have to inform my son that his skin color is threatening to some.
I have always been someone who stood up against racial injustice and prejudice in general. There has always been a fire inside of me to fight for what’s right. Black people are already denied so much, I didn’t feel the need to hide behind fear as well. I am grateful that my parents worked hard so that I could receive higher education and most importantly exercise and dance with my interests. I remember writing short stories as a young child and having endless journals, colorful pens and books to support my interests in writing and literature. Now that I am an adult, it feels imperative to pour into my son and my students the same way. Because of my ancestors and the way I was raised, I have a seat at the table.
I will be completely honest and say that I have no interest in teaching white allies about oppression. There are so many books, movies and documentaries, articles, and free resources for white people to use as tools. One thing I can do is share daily disadvantages that I and many other black women endure. Many of these experiences just blend into our routine as we have learned how to maneuver through the space of white “supremacy”.
As a black woman, I know that I have to work way harder for opportunities than my white counterparts.
As a black woman, I worry about my significant other traveling to and from work – that he may get harassed or pulled over.
As a black woman, when I receive any health services I fear that I may not receive the best advice or even be misled about important health decisions.
As a black woman, I know that I will be questioned about the pronunciation, spelling, and meaning of my name.
As a black woman, my heart rate accelerates and I am in distress any time I am pulled over by the police. My first instinct is either to call someone or make sure I have my video handy.
As a black woman, I have to think extremely hard about childcare to ensure my child is accepted and treated fairly. I worry about my child until I pick him up, while also staying present at work.
Much of the last three years of my life have been spent creating a life to alleviate these worries. I’ve been navigating a life for myself and my family where we can just be. A life where we can focus on our interests and possibly make a living from that. I’ve since become a teacher at a school with students of color and a principle who is black. I have co-workers that look like me. I knew I was making a pivotal shift when I wore my afro out to my last interview. I’ve always concealed my hair into a bun to look more polished, but this time I refused. I want myself and my family to be accepted for exactly what we are – black. I have found a school for my son where there is a black presence. My responsibility looks like lifting up my black partner and giving the energy where he can’t because a black man gets no real breaks. My responsibility also looks like encouraging my underprivileged students to excel beyond their circumstances.
Right now, my life’s purpose is to encourage other black women to create the life they dream of. We can achieve the same things as everyone else. We can have shapeshifting careers, we can have thriving families, we can travel the world, and we too can live lives of meaning. It is not impossible or out of reach, but we have to focus. We must uplift each other and work as a team to break down existing barriers. We are in a space to create our own realities. Our ancestors made sacrifices so that we can be abundant within our communities. Free is a way of thinking and we are freer than we realize.
You can read more by Chloe’ Flowers on her lifestyle blog LADYFOX.
Related All the Pretty Birds Posts: