“Girl, you’re overreacting — you’ll be alright. We already went through 400 years of slavery, it can’t be that bad.”
But what if it is? Have we ever taken the time to think maybe, just maybe, our people’s problems may feel like shackles and chains on their own feet? For so long, we as black Americans have seen slavery as our cushion, in a sense. That it — slavery — set the tone for conversations, jokes, interactions, etc. That it was the meter that told people how far they could go with us.
But these days it seems like slavery doesn’t matter anymore. It makes you wonder, was the pain my ancestors felt enough? And if so, is it stripping my pain from its own validation? Why is it that the pain of being a black woman or a black man is not enough? Why is our pain always compared to the magnitude of slavery? No other race, it seems, has to feel less than because their pain isn’t equivalent to that of hell on earth. But maybe, the solution to our problem is hiding between the lines.
Question: Did black people have a history before slavery? Don’t answer that in your head — of course, we did. The pain our ancestors felt has set the tone for our triumphs, our failures, our letdowns, and has done us a great disservice. We have gotten so caught up in the standards we as a people didn’t create, that we forgot we were once kings, queens, innovators, creatives, travelers, businessmen, businesswomen… the list goes on and on.
Maybe being black “isn’t enough” because we have two different standards of blackness. One is associated with pain, misery, poverty, injustice; while the other is associated with success, entrepreneurship, innovation, creation, and leadership. Is being black enough, or are we associating ourselves with blackness we don’t identify with? Why have we become idle? The truth is, being black will never EVER be enough. Because the definition of black for however long has always had two distinctions: one being our financial and economic status in the country, and the other being cultural influences.
It is time we stop expecting people to understand who don’t want to understand, care with no intentions of empathizing, or advise with ignorant bias. We have to accept that we must be free with ourselves, to ourselves, and amongst ourselves.
There was a life for black people before slavery, and there is a life for black people after slavery.
The choices may be limited for us more often than not, but this choice is ours. We deserve a life that is defined by us — not what has happened to us or against us. We control our own destiny. Our pasts may shape us to some extent, but they don’t define us. We define us. It is imperative that we give ourselves an unbiased definition. That definition can and will start with us.
(Featured Image Credit: Joey Rosado)