I was born Black, so I have lived the Black experience without giving it much thought. I obtained a surface-level understanding of my Black history. I knew about racism, but only what I was taught. I experienced racism and knew I was in the minority. I didn’t discover my Blackness in 2020, rather I grew into my Blackness. I grew a greater love and appreciation for the good, bad, and everything in between when it came to my skin color.
I feel that 2020 was a heavy year for Black Americans. Everything we go through was brought to the surface and put on display for the world to see. The systemic and systematic racism, prejudice, denials, accusations, insensitivity, misrepresentation, hate, and more Black people experience was in our face on television, social media, in public, in our schools, and workplace. Being Black in 2020 made me feel anxious, sad, angrier than I can type, tired, proud, motivated, and full of emotion.
It is fair to say this year has been challenging for everyone. The challenge posed by 2020 has not been isolated to one race, but Black people have disproportionately been impacted at higher rates than their non-white counterparts. When it came to COVID-19, Blacks were disproportionately affected for a multitude of reasons. Black people are more often overweight, suffer from comorbidities (multiple health problems), have decreased healthcare access, and are front line or essential workers.
We had COVID-19 on top of Black people being killed by the hands of police officers that were not appropriately being punished. We had a President in the White House that fed the racism, especially when he would not denounce racism and told far-right, racist groups to “stand back and stand by.” For a moment I thought I was living in the Twilight Zone. This could not be real life! Is this the America I, as a Black woman, am supposed to be proud of?
I learned that there are allies to Black, marginalized, non-white people, and there are those living in the cognitive dissonance of what is going on. I have waffled back and forth about my disgust, disdain, and disappointment in a lot of White people. I cannot generalize and say that all White people are racist, complicit, and do not care because I personally know some loud, outspoken, active allies. I can say there are too many White people who are racist, classist, lack empathy, and are unapologetic about it.
I learned a good number of White people in high places do not care about the structural makeup of our country as long as they get to stay ahead. I learned that your everyday White person may not be blatantly racist, but they care more about what their peers think than being a true ally. It was ok to post a black square on Instagram in solidarity with Black people, but their regularly scheduled programming soon resumed.
I found myself initially trying to explain the Black experience and put in words what I was feeling and going through, but I quickly stopped that. I grew disgustingly tired of non-Black people refusing to utilize the resources available to them. There are all kinds of information on slavery and the effects of slavery, systemic and systematic racism in housing, schools, law enforcement, the workplace. There is the history we were spoon-fed in school and there is the history available online, in books, and from the mouths of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who lived it.
I feel there are non-Black people that want us to just get over slavery, racism, and pretend the racial disparities we experience do not exist. We are often sold the myth of “Black on Black crime,” as if other races are not killing each other. I watched more than my share of White on White crime where they kill their entire family, children included, and get a documentary featured on Netflix. I feel bad for Black people that come in contact and experience bias from their healthcare provider, their real estate agent, the banker, the store or restaurant owner, the school they send their children to. It is exhausting to think about how deep our skin color penetrates our lives.
I learned education, social status, and geography do not make me immune from racism. I will not be spared symbolisms of hate such as the Confederate Flag or swastikas. I will be labeled lazy and dumb, no matter my credentials or that I have been working since I was 14-years-old. I cannot protect my children 100 percent of the time from racists or being discriminated against. These are my sad realities.
I took an Ancestry test because I wanted to know where I came from. I am clearly Black, but Black from where? What flag can I fly that speaks to my heritage? Am I a little Black or a lot of Black? I am proudly from West Africa mostly Nigerian, then Sierra Leonean, with a small percentage of Britain/Irish DNA (likely from colonization). I have proof of my Blackness derived from the greatest continent on this Earth, Africa. This is where life originated and I can finally trace my roots to specific countries. This is an experience I did not have the first 36 years of my life. Nonetheless, I’m ready for my reparations.
This past year has taught me a lot. I had to find my Black voice and speak unapologetically and truthfully about how I felt. I had to share my anger, my pain, and my concern for my loved ones and every other Black person in the world. I became intentional in making sure my children learned real Black History and not the PG version of horrible things Black people have experienced. I have learned to protect my peach and not be gaslighted by society. Racism is and was real and it impacts every Black person you know. I have no problem pointing someone in the direction of information to answer questions they have about my race.
It has been a tough year as a Black person in America in 2020, but I wouldn’t want to be anyone else. I feel there may be a sequel to this post, time will tell.
I Am Jackie
*All thoughts and opinions are my own and are not related in any way to any organization, employer, or institution.