I Long

I long for a love that is soul deep in it’s depth.
Death defying and joyous.
I long for an understanding
Unconditional love.
I long.
I long for quiet comfortable mornings
Listening to the rustle of life in the sheets next to me
I long for whispers filled with your smile
And the feeling that facing the day,
Facing life, is possible
As long as you are by my side
I long.
I long for a love that can see the darkness lurking beneath my skin
Fighting for possession of my mind
I long for a love that can learn
To love me
Scars and darkness and all
But longing leaves me hollow
For even in my longings,
You are faceless.

No One Knows Me

No one knows me like the razor blade
Like blood stains on sleeves
Like a trail of scars on brown skin hidden by hoodies in July
Or worn proudly like faded medals from wartime
No one knows me like ink stains on my fingertips
Like longing
Like regret
No one know knows me like numbness where there should be pain
And pain where there should be life

The Existence of Microaggressions

I want to talk about microaggressions and why they’re real even if you a) don’t want them to be and b) refuse to believe they exist. I’m not asking you to eradicate them all in one go. I’m just asking you to accept that the experiences of others are valid and that these problems exist even if you’ve never experienced them personally. You with me so far? Great. Now, get ready to probably be offended.

Microaggressions are the CASUAL degradation of a marginalized group. To be specific, it is defined as a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.

Microaggressions are real. Now, it’s important to remember that we are acknowledging that these are UNINTENTIONAL biases. It’s important to remember that I am saying we are all guilty at some point. The chances of you having never done this are basically zero because they’re called micro for a reason. If you ask any member of an oppressed group, they’re bound to be able to give you several examples. You’re going to be tempted to say BUT is that REALLY what that is? Don’t do that. It’s frustrating to have to explain to people why something makes you feel a certain way and it’s frustrating to be told you’re being too sensitive. That, by the way, is a microaggression. Telling me I’m being too sensitive and just need to toughen up is a way of invalidating my feelings and experiences and contributes to the self-loathing and oppression of at-risk groups. Ask yourself why depression and suicide, addiction and mental illness, are so prevalent amongst groups at risk and groups being oppressed. These things are part of our daily lives but we are constantly told that we are too sensitive. We are constantly told that our experiences are invalid and that our pain is all in our heads.

Let me give you a personal example. For 2 years, I worked for one of America’s most beloved and simultaneously reviled, retail giants. I worked my ass off. My worth ethic got me carpal tunnel surgery at 23 and panic attacks from trying to basically run an entire half of the store as the only floor associate most days. All that aside, I had this female manager who refused to pronounce my name correctly. She called me Trish every shift for 2 years despite being corrected every day, multiple times, by myself, co-workers and upper management. I wouldn’t answer to that name. I even told her several times the reason I ignored her paging me was because she wasn’t using my name. Before I quit, I had started mispronouncing her name on purpose in retaliation, since escalating the situation to upper management hadn’t worked. I decided to at least have fun with it. I was the only person singled out this way. I don’t think I have to explain to you why I was singled out this way.

Now, “Tish”, you might say, “how is this a microaggression? Sure she’s an asshole but racism? Microaggressions? Come on. Maybe she’s just a terrible person.” Let me explain to you, my friends, the power in a name. Think about the things you refuse to name because a name gives the thing power. Excuse me for my nerd comparison but this is relevant. Wizards and Witches in Harry Potter refused to use Lord Voldemort’s name for fear of the person attached to it. For fear of giving power to the person. His entire identity was in the name he created for himself. Fear of the name, according to Dumbledore, increases fear of the thing itself. We refuse to name something to take it’s power away. Sometimes we name it to take its power. But refusing to use my name is a way of erasing my identity just as refusing to name Lord Voldemort is a way to remove his power. It isn’t just lazy. It’s a way of saying that I am not valid. I am not important enough for you to learn to properly address me. Taking the time to do so means that you SEE that person as a fellow human being and VALUE their existence. Disregarding my name is to disregard me.

Her behavior is so subtle that those outside my particular group would probably assume she’s just not a nice person. You’re right. She isn’t. But for different reasons than you think. She’s not a nice person because her actions are inherently racist. Just as renaming slaves was a way of removing their identity and forcing them into new lives of oppression, her removal of my name is a way to place herself above me. My name, shortened or full form, isn’t even a difficult name. Now, consider the pain those from other countries or those with more ethnic names face. Consider the pain and frustration during school roll calls. That hesitation from the instructor before giving it the old college try. Or the flat out dismissal, “I’m not even going to try to pronounce this.” As if the very thought of attempting to pronounce your name is a trying and difficult and exhausting. Imagine if they not only never try to say it but even GIVE YOU ANOTHER NAME. “Oh, I can’t say that. I’ll just call you, (insert “generic” name).”

Well, listen, my and my daddy didn’t name me (insert generic name) and it is not your right to rename me for your convenience.

This is one example. I have more. How often do you have a stranger touch your hair or skin without permission? Curiosity, though admirable, shouldn’t infringe upon my ownership of my body. It belongs to me and your admiration or quizzical nature does not bypass that ownership. If you have questions, I will answer. If you ask to touch me, I’m going to tell you no. That is my right. Assuming you have the right to touch me without permission is, you guessed it, microaggression. It says that you value your needs above my safety and do not care about my rights to my own body.

Another fabulous example your black girlfriends can tell you about is the question of if our hair is real. Black women aren’t the only people who wear wigs, weaves, or extensions but you don’t ask the white lady if her hair is real. You assume it is real because you assume she has good hair. People assume the black girl’s hair is fake because they assume she has nappy hair and because black women don’t fit the current beauty standards. It’s subtle. But it is a subtle, unintentional comment, that reinforces a stereotype that black women don’t have good hair. We have had eurocentric standards of beauty forced upon us and, as a result, resort to straightening our hair to better fit that. So, too, do we lighten our skin because dark skin isn’t seen as beautiful. If you think a black woman hasn’t heard, “You’d be so much prettier if your skin was lighter,” you’re wrong. Or “You’re pretty for a black girl.” This reinforces self-hatred. I am too dark or too nappy headed to be beautiful. Or so it feels.

Have you ever told someone where you were from only to be asked where you’re REALLY from? And all you can say is… no, really I’m from Ohio. “But where are your people from? Like I know they live in Ohio but like originally?” This would be that subtle unintentional reinforcement of a stereotype we’re talking about. Just because someone looks Asian doesn’t mean they or their parents have ever stepped foot in an Asian country.

Have you ever been at the grocery store with a parent and had people assume that your parent is not your parent? That you were either adopted OR, even worse, that you’re following this poor white lady because you intend to harm or rob her? Well, these things happen. All. The. Time. They are not rare or unique. They happen on the daily for some people.

Microaggressions are real. Perhaps you prefer another name. Call them what you’d like but you can’t erase these experiences. You cannot invalidate the experiences of every group in an effort to avoid discussing very real issues. I’m sure some will say I’m just a social justice snowflake but having uncomfortable conversations about problematic and hurtful behaviors is the only way we’re going to start to learn to accept each other and live peacefully together. Ignoring racism or ignoring differences does not do me a favor. Ignoring my color or being “color blind” does not HELP. It just erases part of my identity and glosses over the real issues instead of meeting them head on and learning about each other.

Forged In Darkness

I hope one day you fall for a black girl
So you can watch as she builds herself
From the bones of slave ships
And the ghosts of freedom riders
Into a mold that doesn’t fit right
Like a mannequin with missing pieces
She’s just a body
With no soul
That’s how they’ll try to justify tearing her down
That’s what they’ll whisper to themselves at night
While she swings in the distant firelight
As she suffocates
Inhaling the ashes of ancestors dead and forgotten
Because hashtags weren’t invented yet
And you’ll watch as bricks crumble and foundations cave
And she falls
And she’ll pick herself up from the rubble and she’ll start again
And she’ll not ask for help
For you have no place there

I hope one day you fall for a black girl
So you can see the disbelief in her eyes when you tell her she is beautiful
Because beauty is for white girls
And she ain’t never been no white girl
She’s never seen springtime in her own eyes
And innocence in her own hands
No she is bitter corners and twisted roots
She is strange fruit hanging in that white man’s lawn
All freak show
And no beauty
This world wasn’t made to be kind to the likes of her
The light is a fickle jealous creature
That’s why beauty forged in darkness is forged in secret

I hope one day you fall for a black girl
And you can see the power in her
That you can see that worlds were built
Civilizations were built
Upon her shoulders
So that you can see them strip the royalty from her blood
Until all that remains is a skeleton wrapped in shackles
And a sense of faded greatness
So that you can see all the doubt seared upon her soul
Because though she is strong enough,
Powerful enough, to bear the ills of the world
Is she powerful enough to shoulder her own pain?

How To Befriend a Brown Girl: Part 2

On things not to say:
“I wish my skin was a dark as yours.”
“I wish I could tan so easily.”
“You’re such a pretty color.”
“What are you? Like what are you mixed with? It’s so pretty.”
“I totally want to have mixed babies. They’re the cutest.”
Inhale. Exhale.
My brown skin is not a fashion statement.
It’s not a fad.
Why do you keep applying beauty only to aspects of my being
Like why is only my hair pretty
Or just my skin is pretty
Or just my lips are pretty
But I’m not just pretty?
Why am I only pretty because I’m mixed with something else?
Your willingness to procreate with a person of color does not get you invited to the barbecue
We are not accessories.
Brown babies are not accessories.
BROWN BABIES ARE NOT ACCESSORIES.
You can have brown friends, brown babies, good intentions and still be part of the problem
I can’t peel my skin from my body and change into something less brown
Something more comfortable
I can’t alter my soul and suppress my culture
I can’t shed my skin like a coat
So stop treating the color of my skin like some trend
I AM NOT A STATEMENT
I am not your ally card
I am more than your token
I am not en vogue
Loving myself isn’t avant garde
It should not be an act of war
But I will fight that battle
In hopes that one day there will be no war

How To Befriend a Brown Girl: Part 1

(working title)

On Hair:
  1. Don’t ask to touch my hair as you’re touching my hair.
  2. Don’t touch my hair.
  3. Don’t ask to touch my hair.
  4. Don’t ask if my hair is real.
  5. Don’t ask how I get my hair to look so pretty.
  6. Don’t ask what I’m mixed with because my hair is so pretty.
  7. Don’t tell me you wish you could have hair like mine.
  8. Don’t.
Your fingers in my hair without my consent or expressed permission
Is like a statement that black bodies are akin to amusement parks
That America’s history of disregarding black bodies is lost on you and will continue to be so
Chains. Whips. Water hoses. Dogs. Eurocentric ideas of beauty and now your fingers in my damn hair.
Our bodies have never been ours.
They have only been whatever you choose to make of them.
They have never merited kindness and care.
A stranger putting their hands on you without your consent
Is assault
Except when it comes to black hair and black bodies
I’m only beautiful when you’re around to see it
I’m only pretty when you’re around to tell me
Even my love for myself and my blackness is offensive to you
I can only love myself in ways that you approve.
In secret and in whispers
Because black girls are too rowdy
We’re too angry
We’re a handful
We’re too much
Too much
And not enough
I am not enough for you to view my body as my sanctuary
My hair as my glory
Not enough to prevent you from violating sacred ground
To claim for your amusement.
I am too much
And not enough
Not enough to keep your fingers out of my damn hair.