Long before I knew what it was like to be Black in America, I knew what it was like being black in the world and when I moved to the U.S., for a moment I mostly forgot what it was like. Traveling has reminded me that there were at least two sides to the black experience. There was being black in America and traveling the world while happening to be black. Regardless of where I was, the results were always mixed and although it shouldn’t be so, being black became constant in my self consciousness. The privilege of me remained elusive.
Black in America
In the U.S., there is the column that criminalises me and another column in which I have to constantly prove my blackness in order to feel a greater sense of acceptance. The first column is headed by a system, be it criminal justice or socio-economic. The second column is headed by black people—yes, us. Some examples came in the form of an older white woman clutching her purse or inching closely to the doors of an elevator as soon as she saw me walk in.
Another example is the law enforcement community and their aggressive tone or posture towards me—their attitude that dared me to fight back or accept their trampling which in turn could guarantee a less than favourable outcome for me. While coming home one night with my parents and my then-seven-year-old brother from church, two officers threatened my father for simply backing into our driveway from the street. I taught myself what I refer to as the classic American smile, the kind that sends my puffed cheeks pressed up against both lower eyelids. And an eye contact that lasts for three-tenths of a millisecond—not long enough to incite fear.