When you’re brown like me, the world looks at you differently. My shade of brown is light, almost pure enough to respect. I am just a hint of spice, just a little bit of flavor for the people who can’t handle some sort of burn, some sort of feeling besides numb.
I can walk down the streets of my hood and I can walk down their streets paved with gold. I am the one they look to, the token they run to, when they want to feel secure in who they pretend they’re not. They’re not racist if I’m around, they love spice when it tastes like me.
I hold onto this everyday, the knowledge that I am the object of the racist man’s societal desire. I am an educated woman. Eloquent language flows easily from my lips, drips from my fingertips. My clothes look like theirs’, or close enough at least. My skin and my appearance are the things they crave and want to put on a stage to say, “Look, we let one get through. We can’t be that bad.”
But I fought my way through. I left the ways of my people behind for a while, abandoned the way we speak and act to fit in with the elite. Held my tongue as best I could, worked full time, educated myself overtime, to be better and yet treated as a little under equal. I worked my way through a system that tried to push me out at every turn and I conquered it to see that life isn’t so great at this end either.
And yet, the fetishization of my skin and my demeanor was almost worth the pain because we’re an inch closer, a shade deeper, to reaching ordinary. When people like me don’t have to be exceptions is when life will truly be good. When it will no longer matter the depth of the brown on our skin is when we will all be able to claim victory.
Until then, we’re backed into the same corner again and again. The same corner we’ve kicked and clawed and fought our way out of since this land became “free.” The free man stands in our way because to allow us freedom feels like we’re taking theirs’ away. That’s not the way it works free man. Block us into this corner for just a little while longer and you’ll feel what it’s like to be stripped of your freedom. There can be no peace expected where no peace is given. Let us be free with you or I fear none of us can be.
Stop looking at me white man, white woman. Stop pointing in my direction when you want us to resign ourselves to your corners. I don’t live there anymore. I am free.
And believe me, I will fight for my people to be free, too.