George Floyd: My White Friends Never Have to Worry About Having Space
13 June 2020
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By Tatenda Nyanyira | The world has been shook by yet another instance of police brutality and we are still dealing with the aftershock. We’re in the middle of a revolution that is being televised. Tension is at an all-time high and anxiety is at an all-time high. As a black woman, every time something like this happens it triggers my own bouts with racial intolerance that I’ve endured since birth. We are currently fighting a battle that has been fought for centuries, but that doesn’t make it any less exhausting.  

Overt racism and racial intolerance is nothing new—it’s always been here. It may be outwardly expressed, or it may show up in the form of microaggressions. From kids not wanting to play with you in the playground because you look different, to you never getting the job you applied for as a graduate because your name just sounds ethnic. It shows up when you enter a shop and the shop owner follows you through every aisle because they assume you’re there to steal. It shows up when your co-worker asks you to speak on behalf of all black people. It shows up when people are surprised or shocked by your intellect. It shows up when non black people of color want to use the n-word and want to relate to you, but outwardly express relief that they’re not black. It shows up in every stereotype portrayed in our social spheres.

It shows up in the underrepresentation in the media. It shows up when scrolling through social media and people of other races deem it appropriate to say that blacks need to go back to their countries. Or when they call us the n-word. Or when they muster up the audacity to excuse the killing of our people because they shouldn’t have done crime. Even the worst of criminals don’t deserve to die on sight before they see a day in court. When white people cause massacres and heinous crimes, they make it to the police station unharmed time and time again. So, why is it different for us? We’re literally saying we want people to stop killing us and that somehow has turned into a debate. We’re fighting for our basic human right to live.

As a child, it was instilled in me to work twice as hard to achieve the same things that my white peers were given. My white friends never have to worry about having a space available for them in the work force, in entertainment, or in any market because the world caters to white people. So, when black people create a space for us, where we employ people that look like us, and we promote what society has always told us is “ugly” or “ghetto” and that gets taken from us, we are angry. For centuries white people have stolen from us and taken credit for it and we’re still seeing it today. When I went to school in cornrows as a child, I was made fun of and bullied for it. When I see other black women don a similar hairstyle we are classified “trashy” or “unprofessional”. We are scrutinised for showing up in the work force or in our schools with our hair the way that it grows out of our heads. Yet, when a white celebrity chooses to wear any of these hairstyles it is immediately considered “high fashion” and “trendy”. We used to be ridiculed for the way our bodies naturally are built. Our large lips, large hips and rear ends were made fun of until they became trendy and people of all other races now go to doctors to buy those same features. Everyone wants to enjoy black culture, and black music but don’t want any part of the struggle. The world may think that black people have a chip on their shoulder, but that’s the world stepping on our necks and we’ve had enough. We are tired and have every right to be. 

As black people we wake up and eat trauma for breakfast. And it’s the last thing we see before we go to bed. For years, time and time again we watch our people brutally murdered, on camera and their killers walk away scotch free. This is traumatising because nothing separates us from those who have lost their lives to police brutality. We look like them too, so we could go out tomorrow and have a similar interaction and end up as a hashtag. In recent weeks, I have had to take a step back from my day to day life and process the personal triggers that come with a movement like this. I only recently acknowledged that this can be damaging to one’s self esteem and mental health. So, while we educate and empower ourselves and others, let’s be mindful of the imagery and words that we publicise. We’re all fighting this fight, but it’s not an easy one. It can easily take a toll on one’s mental health and how they show up in the world.

To my fellow black people, don’t ever feel ashamed for living out your truth. Stand up for what you believe in, regardless. And while you carry the heaviest weight on your shoulders as you navigate where and how you belong in a society and system that was never build to protect you, don’t lose sight of your value. It’s an exhausting battle, it’s tiring to wake up face the reality that we do on a daily basis. You’re allowed to exude joy and seek peace in times like these. It’s okay to step away from the media and persistent damaging and traumatising imagery to rest and make sure that you’re okay. It’s not easy to wake up and scroll through social media and see someone who looks like you be murdered, assaulted or villainized and dehumanised solely because of the colour of their skin. You carry a heavy weight and often times you aren’t recognised. Don’t ever let that stop you from realising your full potential. The world has tried to take us out time and time again, but we won’t let it happen. They gon’ get this black girl magic and they gon’ get this black boy joy. PERIOD.