• R. Barrow

I'm tired...

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Yes, I’m tired. Not physically exhausted but like most Black Americans, I’m emotionally drained. Our fight for equality is one that has existed for centuries and it pains me when I think about the very real struggles we still face.

No matter how “carefully” we navigate—be it code switching, accepting tone policing, or never stepping into corporate America without our “game faces”, many of us are forced to shrink ourselves and fit into neat boxes. These boxes are not self-imposed, they are the result of white supremacy.

I’ve never been one to “play the race card” but I acknowledge facts. Pretending like racism just cropped up in 2016 when Trump was elected is willfully obtuse. It’s also disrespectful to Black people that have fought and died for us just to exist and have some semblance of “liberty and justice for all.” Which by the way, was never intended for people that look like me.

Yes, I know these conversations can be uncomfortable for some but they’re necessary. To grow you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t take the truth as an “attack.” You have to open your eyes when you look in the mirror or you’ll never see a reflection. The late James Baldwin summarized this beautifully; Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

I see a lot of companies and industries taking a vocal stance on no longer tolerating racism and moving toward diversity. That’s commendable but the timing is a bit suspect. While I celebrate you for joining the fight, I also wonder what took so long? How many Black bodies had to be sacrificed through senseless acts of brutality for you to care? That’s an honest question only you can answer.

I’ll never forget working for a corporation that decided to bring in armed police officers. All of my white and non-Black coworkers raved about how safe and secure they felt with officers on site, meanwhile I felt physically ill each morning. I’d walk into the building and cold stares, no hello or smiles greeted me because certainly I didn’t “belong” in this multi-million dollar facility. The fear I felt was not because I did anything wrong, it's the same feeling that creeps in when a police officer pulls behind me while I'm driving. This fear stems from never knowing if or when an interaction with law enforcement could be my last. It’s also very telling that I only shared real conversations with the food service and janitorial staff, most of which were Black and Latinx people. Needless to say, I resigned as soon as I found a better opportunity but so many of us don’t have the option to walk away from a well-paying or stable job.

This is just one example of the many challenges Black people face, even when we’ve played the game and been offered a seat at the table.

I worry the most about my sons. The oldest recently entered adulthood and he’s carefree, bringing his whole self wherever he goes. I always get that sick feeling when I hear myself telling him to pronounce things a certain way, pull his pants up, tuck in his shirt, don’t play music too loud, always say yes ma’am and no sir, or untwist his natural hair before job interviews.

At times we argue and he tells me I’m overprotective but I know for a mother of Black children there is no such thing. We have to be fiercely protective because we understand what’s out there. I’ve had “the talk” with him since he was 9 years old. Not about the birds and the bees, the talk every Black American has with their kids. Simply stated, many will see his Black skin and perceive him as a threat. I never want my children to be afraid but I want them to be aware.

I don’t have all the answers. Hell, most days I’m figuring things out as I go but I pray the forward momentum will stay steady in this country. I’m very proud of the new generation—my son included. They’re outspoken and fearless. Shaking the table and the status quo.

In closing, a few points I planned to mention but I don’t feel the need to elaborate on:

  • Yesterday, today, every single day BLACK LIVES MATTER!

  • Confederate monuments should be demolished.

  • Happy pride month, love is love.

  • The publishing industry needs to walk their talk and pay BIPOC authors fairly. We know about P&Ls, comps, industry deal codes on Publishers Marketplace, etc. so we’ve been talking about disparities in private for years. I’m glad to see the conversation is front and center now.

  • My beautiful Black brothers and sisters you have every right to be mad, frustrated, tired and fed up but please also protect your peace beloveds. Take breaks when you need to. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

  • To all white and non-Black allies putting your bodies in harms way to protect protesters, donating funds, sharing links, and voting hatred out of office; sincerely thank you.

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