Earlier, me and a friend were talking about the reality that us black folks live with and the reality that many others – both non poc and poc, seem to fail to recognize. During that time, I visibly grew frustrated and passionate with my wording. I voiced how tiring it was to live life going through hoops, uncertain on where the landing would be, how tiring it is for many black women and femmes to not be listened to because of the color of our skin and the stigma of the “Angry Black Woman” that hang over our heads. My friend allowed me to vent my frustrations and I admitted to feeling aggravated that our lives have come to this and the fact that it’s equally aggravating to not be listened to because of the ‘lack of evidence,’ even though we know the realities to our lives rather well; and with my frustration, I can’t imagine how frustrating it is being a young black child or teen, trying to voice their thoughts and opinions on these matters, only to be brushed aside and ignored, solely for the fact that they’re “too young to understand.” By the end of it all, saying that I was heated would have been an understatement. I was tired, angry, drained, hopeless, and everything in between, all wrapped up in some cruddy little wrapping paper with a limp bow slapped on top. I felt childish for becoming so heated and shameful altogether. Then, my friend told me something that made me realize I have been missing something vital within myself, and now I’m relying on the message to use in harsh settings where people refuse to hear your voice. “Don’t feel childish and stupid. That’s a natural human reaction. The thing about being a black woman/femme is you learn a new way to handle emotions and debates and you just haven’t gotten there yet.”
And you know what? She’s right. The answer has been staring me in the face all this time and it was as clear as day, but I still couldn’t comprehend that simple fact until it was plainly spoken to me. She agreed with me that living as a black person shouldn’t be this hard, that we shouldn’t have to be jumping through hurdles and hoops without knowing the slightest bit on where we land – but that’s just it. Just because it shouldn’t be, doesn’t mean it’ll change just like that. So she said adapt. Change my tactics on how I go about explaining myself. She said: “Yes. It should not be that hard for black people and black women. But it is. Your anger about it should not be a “it shouldn’t be like this” because you’ll just be burning hot and not getting anything done. You’ll tire yourself out. You’ll get tired and you’ll just burn hotter and hotter hoping that I’ll change something because you can explain why it shouldn’t be like this to people who don’t care about why it is like this.” I had to come to terms with myself and realize that I was wasting my breath, explaining situations to people that would nearly always refuse to acknowledge where I’m coming from, because it’s not happening to them. I realized that even if I explained myself until I was blue in the face, served it all on a pretty silver platter, my words will be ignored; and that will only make me more angry and more drained. My friend told me that it’s good to be passionate and fight about a cause I believe in, but when you’re fighting in a war, you adapt. A power that I haven’t tapped into, a tactic that again, was right in front of my face, and yet I still struggled with. As black folk, over time we learn to adapt, not because we want to, but because we have to. Adapting is necessary for survival in this world that sets us up to fail from the beginning. We don’t sit in one space. We don’t just do one thing. We are people who do many things and we strive to do things greatly no matter what comes in our way.
Being black, there will be countless situations where the person or people we’re talking to will make us feel crazy, or winded. We’re going to be shoved in positions time and time again where our patience will be tested. And in situations like that, we have to be able to think clearly, it’s essential for us to process things calmly, even if the circumstances we’re in pushes our buttons to where we’re raging with emotion. My friend blatantly told me this is our war and in order to make it through, we’re going to have to be able to think ahead. She told me to never let go of my fire, but don’t be consumed with my flames. She told me there are other options for my fire, and reminded me that fire isn’t just for burning – but for warmth. I was told that no matter what, do not allow anyone or anything to snuff my fire out, to handle it with care, and to use it for other things.
I was reminded today that how I feel has been and always will be valid: My frustration, my anger, my anguish – all of it is valid and I have every right to feel the way I do. I was also reminded that even though these feelings are valid and despite the suffering I or many black folks face and will face, there will always be someone, somewhere, who will deliberately remain in their ignorance. And it is not my job to change their minds. It is my job to defend my flame by any means necessary. Nothing more, nothing less.