Hello beautiful people!
This is one of the few posts I’ve struggled with. As a black woman in Atlanta, GA my eyes have been opened to racism way more than I ever expected in 2020. When I moved to Atlanta it was because this was supposed to be where black people thrived. This was the land of milk and honey. Black businesses, lawyers, doctors lived and thrived here like kings. I could finally see myself reflected as one of many college-educated people working throughout the city and shopping at the mall. Instead of being one of the few people that looked like me older white women, employed as salespeople, followed my mom (dressed in a business suit) and I all over Nordstrom as I looked for a homecoming dress like we were going to shoplift. Now I understand that this is still Georgia, a very large conservative red state that loves to fly the Confederate flag. Trust me there have been many road trips through the backwoods of Georgia that I did not drink water for over three hours because I was terrified to stop in a certain area for fear I would end up missing. You all know I love south Florida with all my heart, and I can honestly say the few racist encounters I had over the years there growing up. Every time something happened, I felt hurt, disappointed, but I refused to accept hate in my heart for a few bad apples. I accepted that these people were probably raised ignorantly and did not have the bandwidth to learn about other cultures or ask questions (even though Palm Beach County is a huge melting pot).
I even had a close friend in college tell me racism was not real. In my mind, I was completely stunned, that a blonde-haired blue-eyed poster child for All American beauty would tell me that racism did not exist. I told her that it definitely does exist and that she would not notice because she was not the target of racism. Her boyfriend even stepped in to say he knew racism existed and did what he could for friends whenever he noticed it. He was always an incredibly empathetic guy and for that, I am so grateful. I told her about the microaggressions I experienced while dating in south Florida. I had so many white guys pursue me through Facebook message and text, spend hours talking to me on the phone, and at parties only to disappear into a crowd when we were on a date in public. Only to never introduce me to their close friends or family after six months of being in an exclusive relationship. It finally clicked in my head that they were more afraid of losing their family’s financial support, future trust funds, and being “made fun of” by people, they knew than treating me with the respect I deserved. I even had this happen in college when a guy I was dating walked by me like I was wallpaper with his friends on campus as I waved to him. He texted me later to say he was, “sorry”. I blocked his number. My high school sweetheart was Hispanic, and his friends and family relentlessly made racist comments to my face about my skin being ugly, my appearance to looking like a monkey, cockroach, and other asinine insults. This became one of the major tipping points in us breaking up because I could not marry into a family that does not respect me. I could not have children with a man that would not stand up for me. I could not risk letting some ignorant women call my child disgusting names and trying to make them hate themselves any more than the world already would. The irony of this is his family was Puerto Rican and darker in skin tone and thicker in hair texture than I am. I pointed out that contrary to popular belief we both have originated from Africa and that their comments showed a lot of self-hatred. I think every skin tone, hair texture is beautiful because it adds variety to our world.
In my first corporate job in Atlanta, I found out I was making five thousand dollars less than the previous white receptionist. She told me flat out that my test scores were higher than hers, and every other candidate they ever had. She also told me what she was making before she left so I would not be screwed over. (She also pointed out that I had a year of office experience something she did not). However, when I fought for that salary, I was told to take the lesser amount or walk. As time went on in the company my boss said at a lunch meeting that, “The south should have won. That they had far better leadership.” I felt I was not in a position to say anything for fear of losing my job and my only means of supporting myself. I choked down my burger and went to the bathroom to cry. The next year I moved up to an admin position. The new receptionist and admins complained about their salaries to me. I found out that the receptionist was making more than I currently was by nine thousand dollars and the admins by twenty thousand dollars. I finally realized it did not matter that I went to a private university, graduated with a philosophy degree, worked harder than everyone else, never came in drunk, did not complain and made everyone else’s lives easier, I was still a black woman in the south. These women while polite at times, came in late often, took two-hour lunches, left early, caused drama, ran off various analysts, associates, and receptionists like it was Game of Thrones. They had no problem screaming and cussing each other out across the bullpen while employees were on the phone with clients and drinking at work. They continued to make more than I did while doing less work for no other reason than the fact that they were blonde, and white from the same small towns in Georgia as a lot of the vice presidents and managing directors were.
Coming to Atlanta the birthplace of civil rights, home of the Civil and Human Rights Museum, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood home it is disheartening to see the work and sacrifices of so many have pushed us forward very little. I do not understand why it is okay for someone to walk into a church, murder nine people, permanently traumatize so many more and walk out in handcuffs without a scratch, without a knee to the back or throat. But a black man running through a neighborhood can be gunned down in the street by two citizens and they never received an arrest until Twitter had to create a national outcry MONTHS after the murder occurred. To see that four police officers pinned down George Floyd a man who was not holding a weapon, did not threaten or shoot anyone thrown on the gravel with a knee pinned on his forty-six-year-old neck. I do not understand how anyone can say this is anything other than racism.
I am heartbroken for every person that is terrified to be pulled over for fear of getting killed. I am heartbroken for every person that has false reports made against them. I am heartbroken for every person that has been told they deserve to be treated like a criminal because of their skin tone. I am heartbroken for every person that just wants to live their life equally like everyone else but cannot because of arbitrary ignorant fears and beliefs.
Yes, I know there are riots and crime and utter chaos happening in our metropolises. I do think a lot of the violence and crime have been caused by other races using this movement to cover up their actions. People are angry. Everyone has lost their jobs, some of their homes, and they want someone to blame. I think this movement was the perfect time and opportunity for people to loot under the guise of the Black Lives Matter movement. A time to commit crimes because “everyone else was doing it” and it will be hard to hold people accountable. I have seen many videos of black people begging people of other races to spot spray painting, breaking, and setting fire to things. Crying out that this is not the support we are asking for! That this only fuels the negative narrative the media has already spread. I’ve seen videos of black people volunteering to clean up areas that have been damaged the next day. I have seen the heartbreak of people going to a peaceful protest only to walk back and find their own car has been spray painted or their business looted. I am not saying this is positive, but thankfully our material things can be replaced. We can rally around and rebuild, but we cannot gain back the lives of people who have been killed. This country of mine has a history of killing young black man falsely such as George Stinney Jr. who was fourteen in 1944 when he was sentenced to be executed by an electric chair. He was accused of killing two white girls age eleven and seven. He was held in solitary for over eighty days without seeing his parents and they were not allowed at his trial. He was treated as though he was guilty before even getting the right to due process. He has since been proven innocent. Stories like these are the reason why we as a country need to change.
There have also been peaceful protests for years. Kneeling to the flag during the anthem at NFL games, the Black Lives Matter movement that was immediately disrespected and watered down by the blue lives matter and all lives matter comments. The difference between blue lives matter and black lives matter is you volunteered, trained, and get paid to be a cop. Black people never asked to be born black. While we love and celebrate the skin we are in, we never asked for systematic hate, racism, and disadvantages.
What can you do to help?
- Take an educated look into each elected official for local government. I’m talking county and city, senate representatives, and the huge primary presidential election. Vote for the greater good. You are never going to agree with everything a candidate supports, but if there is a greater candidate of the two picks the one that will do the least amount of harm.
- Donate to lawyers that are offering to bail out protestors. (If you have five dollars to spare, we all know how hard and tight it is for everyone financially).
- Actually, listen. Listen to your friends from other ethnicities when they mention dealing with microaggressions as well as physical aggression. Do not dismiss them look at your phone or belittle their feelings and concern.
- Be an ally. Have the awkward conversations when someone at work makes a racist joke or a family member does at dinner. The same as you should if someone used a gay slur. We all need to stick together and demand that everyone be better and more empathetic to one another.
- Teach your kids to judge based on character, not appearance. Children are the future and buying your kids dolls and storybooks of other cultures teaches them about all the beautiful people in the world. It breaks down stereotypes and walls so we can teach the next generation to be even better than us.
If you’ve read this far thank you. Thank you for trying to understand. Thank you for listening. I hope I gave you some idea of a way you can help and make a change.