Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Today as I watched the news and had one of my infrequent morning pity parties, I found myself uncontrollably crying.
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Typically, I can talk myself off of the ledge, but today I found myself in one of those ugly cries which included dry heaves. Another assault on a black woman. Another young man assaulted by the police. Another microaggression or overt racist comment by the leader of our country. Food chain employees simulating lynching. Peaceful protesters being harmed and yet another Twitter war about “all lives matter.” If “all lives matter,” someone needs to remind me of a time when mine has. I’ve been isolated, the butt of jokes, mentally abused, humiliated, and considered “junior” when my 20 years of experience divulges otherwise. By the way, all of this shit has happened throughout my career. In fact, I’ve had an employer state, “You know I get credit for people who look like you right?”
Anyway, as a pre-COVID road warrior, I considered going for a long drive to clear my head. Long drives allow me to view all of the beauty God has put onto the earth. Drives allow me to daydream about the things that I wish I had. Like a beach house, a healthy savings account, a nice home, and perhaps an interview with Oprah.
However, the men in my life, whom I call my brothers, advised against a black woman driving alone on a long road trip. The mysterious lynchings that aren’t being addressed have them worried. Ironically, I worry about my bros also. I remind them not to drive too fast and if they’re pulled over ask permission...for everything. I instruct my daughter to do the same. In fact, I follow her home when she leaves my home to travel to hers.
Today, however, my tears exemplify the pain of every black woman. The pain we silently carry knowing there’s rarely anyone caring about us. Our daughters are missing and not a headline. They have black mothers who are somewhere losing their minds and wondering why their pain hasn’t translated into action. Those young men and women who were killed by the police...have a black mother. Those young men who were lynched...have a black mother. Sandra Bland has a black mother. Breonna Taylor has a black mother. Tamar Rice has a mother and on and on and on. Yet, somehow black women always seem to be the most underrepresented, disrespected group with the most strain upon our backs.
We’re raising babies on our own to later have them curse us for, “what we didn’t do” or “what they didn’t have.” Or losing them to the streets, not because they were the streets…losing them just because. My tears represent fatigue, pain, defeat, and fear...on wash, rinse, and repeat. So tired that I cannot rest.
A wise mentor compared my feelings to that of “Ducks on a Pond.” He explained, when we see ducks gliding effortlessly across the water, we forget their webbed feet are paddling as if their life depended on it. “Wow,” I thought. How poetic.
And there it was. The perfect example of my heartfelt feelings, but my lips could not articulate. Poetry from his lips that explains why black women are paid less, asked to do more, and if we don’t comply we’re labeled as angry, abrasive, and non-collaborative. In any given situation, in order to survive, we have to work 10 times harder and still be judged. Judged not only by what we bring to the table but how our hair looks on any given day or what color lipstick we choose to accentuate the glow of our skin. As black women, we are forced to spend endless amounts of money sewing in sacrificed hair from someone else’s head, onto our head, because the hair that comes out of our scalp Is not acceptable. Ducks on a pond.
Poetry from his lips that explains the microaggressions and passive-aggressive comments that pulsate through our souls as black women. Aggressions that send a signal to your brain that you must respond and protect yourself, but if you respond...you’re branded as the “angry black woman.” Ducks on a pond.
True story. I attended a class with a group of men and women. I happened to be the only black woman in the group (not abnormal). The instructor asked that we tell a little bit about ourselves, then point to the next person whom we chose to speak next. I tell a little about myself and gleefully (wanting to fit in) pointed to the next woman. I had a big smile the entire time. However, as I point to the next person, who happened to be white, she responds, (while clutching her chest), “Oh! I feel attacked.” I couldn’t understand why she felt attacked. After all, I was only doing what was requested. I didn’t think it was an attack, but I couldn’t ask why she felt that way because I would have immediately been labeled the “angry black woman.” As if they needed another reason.
Like Ducks on a Pond, many black women will glide along holding their true feelings inside or passion for an idea for fear each will be misunderstood for anger. Being misunderstood leads to fatigue. No one sees the tears we cry not only for ourselves but for our husbands, boyfriends, brothers, sisters, and our children. Our children who sometimes fear they will not have an opportunity to grow old. Fears that when our family walks out the door we will never see them again. Fears of not earning enough to retire wealthy or owning that beach house. Ducks on a pond.
Oftentimes we face a silent hell that makes us so strong that we stop the tears even before they have an opportunity to fall down our faces. As I grow older, I understand now why I never saw my mother cry. Even when a gas stove blew the clothes off of her body and the eyebrows off of her face...she didn’t shed a tear. Turns out she simply called upon that, “Ducks on Pond,” mentality to survive. Accepting what life had to offer and smoothly gliding through life while her feet were paddling fearlessly beneath the surface.
So what do we need? What we don’t need is another intermittent inclusion program that in most cases do not include us. We need those who are in a position to:
Stop discounting us. If we’re sitting at the table, we’ve earned a right to be there.
Stop labeling us. If we ask a question, we’re not angry. We’re seeking to understand.
Stop putting constraints on us. Utilize the same rules for us that you have for others.
Stop believing our color makes us inadequate. Our degrees hold the same weight as yours.
Lastly, we’re “Ducks on a Pond,” if you keep your knee on our necks...we’ll drown.