How to be Black

Being a Black woman comes with many different perspectives and hardships, but I  never knew I would understand the feeling of pride. This disconnect with issues within the Black community came from my lack of association with Black people. In my teen years, I avoided Black spaces because I decided that I did not fit in. Often, when I was in those spaces, I was made fun of for my voice or my lack of knowledge of Black culture.

Recently, my dad told me that they often kept me out of those spaces so that I would not have to grow up like my parents did. This is an understanding decision on my parents’ part, but I also ended up creating quite the antipathy for the Black community. Ideas such as “Why can’t they just uplift themselves?” or “Black people are tearing themselves apart, not the government,” were often in my head. The lack of acceptance in one space allowed me to create a toxic reality downplaying the actuality that many grievances from the Black community towards the “System” were, in fact, real.

I was caught in the middle of a battle with my own identity when the Black Lives Matter movement arrived on the University of Virginia (UVa) Grounds in the Winter of my Third Year. In the moment, I was the token Black friend of a rather large, White friend group. When the movement came, I didn’t know who I was. I knew I was Black but not that Black. I was privileged to not experience many hardships, but I felt connected to the pain in a way my friends never could nor would understand. This later created a chasm in our friendship and sadly those people are no longer in my life. Yet, I’m glad they were because they helped me recognize the problematic aspects of my attendance at UVa.

I walked into college trying to get an Electrical Engineering degree for the money and left with an African American and African Studies degree to enrich my mind with my history. Now, as someone who is trying to be a more active participant in the fiber of change in America, I constantly remember the words of W.E.B. DuBois and understand that to be Black in America is to be a Problem. Being Black feels like this often, but I know I can do more and hope that it ripples out and touches more than just the Black community, but all of America.