The American dream also has episodic nightmares

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is black-stress-1.jpg

The first six months of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most dramatic. The world has been shaken with a pandemic, and in the last few days it has been awakened to act as the result of an atrocity on the streets of the United States. An atrocity, the likes of which isn’t new to the disenfranchised black and brown denizens of the country. The murder, and I purposely choose not to say alleged murder, of George Floyd by a white police officer on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota has been the proverbial straw that has broken the backs of millions of people. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I normally use this space to muse about things that are on my mind; however, this time I bow to words penned by my 22-year-old granddaughter, Kennedy Hill. Kennedy just graduated from the University of Arkansas, and is about to enter graduate school there, pursuing a double program of degrees in Political Science and Law.

As you read the following, I ask that you consider the circumstances in which Kennedy was raised. She was blessed to have grandparents who are well educated, and although she was born into a single-parent home, her mom is college educated. She is also a business owner and recognized in the broader community of her hometown as a person with an opinion worth seeking on issues of the day.

Kennedy has been blessed to have all the material accoutrements any child in America could want, and a good amount of love to boot, but listen to the frustration in her words that follow:

This is my story:

I am a black woman, born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas in a single parent household. I attended a white church, predominantly white schools, but the only time I ever heard a conversation about race was when I was around black people. I felt confused.

Sophomore year of high school, I was told I was “pretty for a black girl.” It was meant as a compliment, but what I heard was “black girls are ugly, but you are the exception.” I felt disgusted.

In the eleventh grade, my best friend, in front of our entire class, told me that racism wasn’t “that bad” today as it was fifty+ years ago. I felt belittled.

My senior year in my AP US History class, we were on the topic of the slave trade. A girl ignorantly compared the buying and selling of human commodities to Black Friday, and the teacher chuckled. I felt unseen.

When my ‘friends’ discussed race matters, a rare occasion, and more specifically black people, and would say derogatory things with me in the room, they would look at me and say, “oh not you, the others.” Why? Because I was the exception. Because I didn’t show them the black stereotype that they have been brainwashed to only see, I was accepted into their world. I was non-threatening. I felt disrespected.

Fast forward to college. As I got deeper into my major and my classes became smaller, I found that I was the only black person in my classes. I felt lonely.

For most of the four years I spent on the cheer team, I was one of two black cheerleaders. And I had to hear comments that I was “the whitest black girl” my teammates knew. Or I was asked if my skin had the ability to tan. I had to hear someone call HBCU cheerleaders’ way of cheerleading “ghetto.” I felt lost.

Now it’s June 4th, 2020. I realize that most of these experiences are deemed ‘micro-aggressions.” Coined by Harvard professor Chester M. Pierce, a micro-aggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.”

So, I say all of this to make this final point- you may not be racist. You may be one of the ‘good ones.’ But I challenge you to truly look within and unearth those prejudices we all hold in our hearts. It is not enough to not be racist; you must be a c t i v e l y challenging every stereotype that has been engrained in you. Because when you are talking about the black community, calling blacks thugs, criminals, etc., you are talking about me, my mother, father, brother, sister, papa, mema, aunt, uncle.

You may be a ‘good one.’ But are you continually striving to make a difference? Do you call out your friends and family that make misguided, uninformed, prejudiced statements? Or do you sit in silence, scared to rock the boat, scared to speak out because you’re ‘uncomfortable’? Become an actual advocate for human rights. That, my friends, is the only way we can move forward.

And if my post makes you uncomfortable, I hate to sound rude, but deal with it. I have lived in this black skin for 22 years and have been uncomfortable my entire life.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

11 thoughts on “The American dream also has episodic nightmares

  1. catterel June 5, 2020 / 5:55 pm

    Beautifully, articulately, movingly expressed. Bless you, Kennedy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oldandblessed June 5, 2020 / 6:01 pm

      Thanks, Catterel for responding so quickly. I’ll be sure to pass your response along to Kennedy. She’ll need all the blessings she can get. A double degree program in Poly Sci and Law has got to be hard.

      Liked by 2 people

      • catterel June 5, 2020 / 6:13 pm

        She sounds like a great girl – beautiful inside and out. She’ll do it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. rangewriter June 5, 2020 / 10:44 pm

    I feel like an idiot. I never really looked at your picture. I never recognized that you are a black man. And normally, that is all just as well, because you are a human. (If anything makes me uncomfortable about you it is that you are a Christian and I am not. ) Thank you for sharing your granddaughter’s eloquently expressed and heartbreaking essay.

    I am so very ashamed of so many of my fellow Americans right now. I’ve gotten into heated discussions over taking a knee, which I’m determined to do, even when it’s uncomfortable at a fancy concert hall. But what I’ve been trying to point out to the naysay kneers is that Kaepernick’s form of protest should make them think about what the national anthem and that flag mean. His form of protest is subtle. It is non destructive. It is important. It is beyond necessary. But no, they don’t want to hear that. Now we watch the country split in two.

    I’m heartbroken.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lady Quixote/Linda Lee June 6, 2020 / 1:20 am

    This is amazing. Deeply moving. Heartbreaking and eye opening.

    Your granddaughter is awesome.

    Like

    • oldandblessed June 6, 2020 / 1:31 am

      Thanks! She has grown in so many ways that I have just recently begun to notice. We all like to hand things over (at our transition) to offspring who are worthy, don’t we? 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee June 6, 2020 / 2:45 am

        I know what you mean. I have some amazing grandchildren, too.

        Because I am white on the outside — my percentage of African Nigerian DNA is very small — I haven’t had the experiences that your granddaughter Kennedy wrote about so beautifully in this post. But I have experienced a tremendous amount of prejudice and rejection, because of the mental illness label that I was given in 1967 when I was 14 years old. Today I know that I actually had post traumatic stress disorder, beginning when I was 12, after going through a series of horrific traumas. But PTSD wasn’t an official psychiatric label until 1980, and so I was given a different psychiatric label: the catch-all diagnosis of that era, schizophrenia. Then my abusive parents jumped at the chance to get rid of me by putting me in a notorious state mental institution, against my doctor’s advice.

        When I was sent home at age 16, I quickly discovered that I had no home to go to, because no one in my family or in my small town wanted anything to do with a “crazy” person. More than half a century later, I still run into this prejudice. I have learned the hard way not to tell any of my friends, neighbors, or church acquaintances about what I went through as a teenager, because when I do, even the people whom I thought were my close friends, immediately shun me. Some do it openly, and some with the micro-agressions that your granddaughter talked about. And it hurts. A lot.

        So, I blog under an assumed name, and I keep my past to myself in real life. My husband knows, of course, as do my adult kids and grandkids. Even so, it’s lonely sometimes. But it’s how I have had to live my life.

        I know that the prejudice I have experienced isn’t the same. After all, I can go to a place where nobody knows me and easily pass for sane, lol. But I think the feelings are probably similar. It’s a feeling that says you are less than, not good enough, you are someone to be shunned and even feared. Yes, some mentally ill people are sometimes violent, but I have never been violent in my life, not even when I was locked up. However…. I know who I am in Christ. I am a daughter of the King of Kings! And today, I have finally reached a place of peace in my soul, where being His is all I really need to be.

        Like

      • oldandblessed June 6, 2020 / 1:32 pm

        I’ve read this several times, trying to give thought to the best way to respond. First, let me say thanks so much for the thought and effort you put into your response. Your empathy for what Kennedy has experienced is appreciated. I’ll certainly share your thoughts with her.

        No one should go through what you have gone through. I’m so glad you have found healing in Jesus. I find it interesting that you are reluctant to share your experiences with members of the body of Christ. That, too, I can understand. And I applaud you for staying with Christ despite what might be un-Christ-like attitudes of people in the body. I’ve seen so many people leave Christ due to the attitudes and behavior of church folk.

        Sister, enjoy your peace in the arms of Jesus. With all the mess the world is going through now, that’s the place where we all should be.

        God bless…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee June 6, 2020 / 5:18 pm

        Your very thoughtful, understanding, and merciful reply brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much!

        Yes, I struggled with my Christian faith for years, because of the very un-Christ-like attitudes I have experienced in the church. There was a time when I called myself an agnostic atheist. But God never let go of me! Hallelujah! The fierce love and amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ finally won me over to Him in March 2003, a few weeks before my 50th birthday. Today, and every day, I am super grateful for His loving presence in my life. Without the Lord, I was a total mess. With the Lord, I am much less of a mess. 🙂

        I don’t remember ever hearing about microaggressions, until I read your granddaughter’s beautiful letter last night. This morning, I was delighted to find an excellent news article about how to handle racial microaggressions. Here is the link:
        https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/05/health/racial-microaggressions-examples-responses-wellness/index.html

        I want to somehow turn all of this into a post for my blog. But first, I need to attend to my household chores, and to my daily memoir writing. I am currently in the process of writing a book, which I have titled Growing Up Crazy. My subtitle is: Surviving Narcissistic Abuse, PTSD, a Mental Institution, and My Appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Please say a prayer for me to get this book written, in a way that will glorify the Lord and help lead others to Him.

        Thank you so much. God bless you, brother. Our God is so good!

        Like

  4. oldandblessed June 6, 2020 / 1:28 am

    Rangewriter, you’ve no reason to feel such about yourself. Yes, I’m of African ancestry; however, I think the most important thing is that we appreciate each others uniqueness and see it as an asset to humanity. I would hope that you not feel uncomfortable about me being a Christian. I don’t think either of our spiritual conditions has prevented us from connecting in cyberspace. My prayer is always that my Christianity offers comfort to all I encounter, who have not chosen to be a Christian.

    Yes, our country is undergoing a lot of stress right now. I wish we could learn all there is to learn from this experience; however, at almost 70 years old, I’m doubtful. This seems like a rerun.

    Thanks for the reply to the post. I’m sure the Universe is shinning on you in ways that you can’t see. Stay safe…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.