By Jazzmyn Peterson
"It’s being told racism no longer exists and being called a nigger on the same day."
Being black in America is being the only non-white kid in your English class and being asked to read the part of a slave girl because you are “so similar.” Being black is being told your straight hair is beautiful but your afro is nappy. Being black is knowing the difference between good hair and bad hair. It’s knowing what being called “articulate” by your teacher really means. It’s learning to code switch before you really know what code-switching means. It’s going by a different name in the workplace because your birth name sounds “too black.” It’s knowing what “too black” means. It’s strangers sticking their fingers in your hair and white friends asking if they can say the n-word and teachers uncomfortably looking at you and looking away when the topic of slavery comes up in history class. It’s being told your history is 300 years of slavery followed by the Civil Rights Movement followed by a black president. It’s being told racism no longer exists and being called a nigger on the same day. It’s hearing your friend's dad tell her that if she ever brought a black boy home, he would hang him from the tree in their front yard. It’s getting a full-ride to college and people whispering that it was because of affirmative action and not because of the work you put in on your own.
Being black in America is knowing that specific way your breath catches at the sight of red and blue lights. It’s knowing what your heartbeat sounds like when you make direct eye contact with a police officer. It’s your parents telling you that you cannot hang out with your friends outside at night time. It’s being told to be home before the street lights come on. It’s being chased down by a truck in your own neighborhood. It’s your high school celebrating Black History Month for the first time in 2018. It’s being shot by someone for having skittles and tea. It’s telling an officer, “I can’t breathe,” and being told, “I don’t care.”
"It’s being told you have to be perfect or you will not be treated like a victim."
Being black in America is watching people that look like you get murdered by people that are there to serve and protect and watching them get away with it. It’s the media saying, “He was a thug,” or, “He did drugs,” as if that justifies the continuous murder of black bodies. It’s being told you have to be perfect or you will not be treated like a victim. It’s having a video shared with the world of another black man being murdered by a police officer, hearing his cries as he struggles to breathe. It’s having irrefutable evidence of murder and still hearing people try to justify it by saying, “He wasn’t a good man,” or, “He had other health problems.” It’s knowing that property is valued over your life. It’s knowing that some people still view you as property.
It’s being told...
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jazzmyn was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and is one of fifteen children. In 2020, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies, with a minor in Arabic from the University of Arkansas. The purpose of her writing is to provide a voice for those often ignored, and to educate those that are willing to learn. She is grateful for her family and friends who have supported her writing career throughout the years.