My ignorance was just as violent and as much of a accomplice to racism as those who are silent
I'm black but it took George Floyd being murdered for me to realize it
On September 20, 2016 around 4pm Keith Lamont Scott, a traumatic brain injury survivor, was killed by a black police officer in Charlotte, NC. They approached Scott because they thought they saw an handgun and when Scott exited his vehicle with his hands down he was fatally shot by the officer who was in plain clothes. The people of Charlotte rioted for 3 days straight. Nine year old Zianna Oliphant went to the city council and the above video was her message.
Fast forward to 2020 and this video is still making its rounds because the message is clear and short. We are mad.
I go by P because that is what I have been answering to since grade school but my name is Paulette. My full legal name is my legacy in my family. My name is not unique, it makes me the fourth to carry it and I am the definition of proud to do so.
My grandmother marched with Dr.King and my father's favorite activist was Malcolm X. I grew up with Dr.King's I Have A Dream speech framed in my bedroom and I have read it word for word more times than I can even remember. Yet any type of activism I actively avoided because I was beyond blessed. I grew up with anything and everything I could ever want. I was the only black kid in my neighborhood so all my friends were white, my speech pattern was that of a white person's, my actions were that of a white person's, and as I got older I called black people ghetto and I expanded my group of white friends.
I am embarrassed to this day about how many times I told my grandmother 'things have changed' when she expressed concerned over my lack of knowledge of my culture. She was appalled by the fact that I didn't even care to learn. When it was time to go to college I was recruited for either basketball or volleyball by some HBCUs and I didnt even open the letter.
Ignorant. Flat out ignorant.
I went to a predominantly white christian college on a volleyball scholarship as a young, black, bisexual female. By Christmas I was kicked off the volleyball team along with the only other bisexual female and without volleyball I gave up, I failed out of college my freshman year at 19 years old.
My blatant ignorance bit me in my ass.
After college I moved to Philadelphia, PA and I rebranded myself. I taught myself about my people and I befriended every black person that would have me. I got into a ton a trouble and I did stupid things just to say I did them. It was unnecessary but I wanted to know. I wanted to be accepted by my people. The people of Philadelphia understood that and they still accepted me (and they laughed at me, a lot) but they knew my heart was in the right place and when it came time for me to leave they told me I didn't belong, I was smart, and that if I wanted to represent my people then I need to put good into this world. I have people up there I would die by; I see them almost every single year because without them I wouldn't be the person I am today....and guess what. All of the sudden I understood why black people never understood or openly disliked me while growing up.
My First BLM Protest
A lot of people from my little town don't like me because of my ignorance. I have been trying to build bridges with some people but they remember high school me so they don't believe in my sudden change of heart towards my culture. Which is understandable. I want to be mad at them but I can't. Instead I just try to be better by being more involved with and loving my fellow black people. So this protest means a great deal to me.
Marching across Uptown chanting 'black lives matter' and 'all lives matter when black lives matter' was invigorating. The organizers kept telling us to slow down because we was moving, moving. We was pumped. We was passionate. We was loud. We was unified. Our strength was on open display and for the first time in my entire life I knew what my next step was, how to execute it, and who to do it with. It was with those people who marched beside me, who linked arms with me, who held my sign when I started to get tired, who laughed with me when we realize just how out of shape we allowed ourselves to get during quarantine. These people who sweated with me today changed my life in 4 hours. Today is the first day I can say that I am truly beginning to understand the power in my melanin.
We was the first march of the day, another one was coming behind us, and a night one was coming right after. More marches were planned for the upcoming week and the need to to network/connect was emphasized. Also communicated was the need to be safe. The looting is understood and the all around civil unrest is understood. As many have been explaining it is part of the process, it is part of our expression of grief. It's karma for the first slave ship, it's karma for the most recent unprovoked black death. We feel like we built it so we should be able to destroy it.
In 2016 I did not understand the looting, I didn't even understand the need to protest. My stint in Philly allowed me to become familiar with the grief my people was experiencing but still I was not connecting. Simply because I could not nor would not own up to my mistake. I turned my back on my culture because it was easy for me to do so and it took me 29 years to even admit that to myself. I would get so mad at being called white, it was the biggest insult to me. Malcolm X said "I’m the only black man they’ve ever been close to who they know speaks the truth to them. Its their guilt that upsets them, not me." He was right. They were speaking my truth and I was lashing out because I knew that they knew that they were right.
So my next step is to continue educate myself. My dialect is still considered white but my content is pro-black and about advancing/protecting my culture now. I still find myself saying stereotypical nonsense but now I actively check myself when I turn into Uncle Ruckus. I still do white people things and I am still growing in the number of my white friends but now my boyfriend is black, now one of my best friends is black, and now I do white people things with black people.
I want kids. I want a whole litter of them. I am shooting for 4 or 5 to my boyfriend's great joy. No matter how many I have they will be better than me in every way possible. They will carry the name Paul/Paulette further than I ever could. They will understand their culture and they will embrace their culture. They will not be taught hate for themselves nor others. They will be great and I will watch with great pride as they live as black men and black women.