We are often plagued with winless fight to true equality because we think we should fight this fight on our own. Dr. King knew we could not win this alone and to this day we must understand we need others by our side; those who sympathize with us, understand what it means to be discriminated upon, those who are willing to risk their comfort to fight alongside the cause.
I have always understood the “fight” is not just ours – it’s about humanity. A friend of mine asked me a question once about ways she could help the plight and I could not give an answer because it’s difficult to ask someone to risk their level of comfortably for the lives of others however, it begged to question what does it mean to be “black.” Not the publicized tv series where rich people walk around with cameras to find those who are willing to give an answer just for the sake of an answer but from one common person to another common person – what does it mean to black to you?
(Photo courtesy of D.Mackin)
Answer from 30+yr old White Woman
“So, I don’t know that this truly answers your original question, but I sat down to write and this is what came out….
I am not black. I don’t know what it’s like to have ancestors who were enslaved by other people. I don’t know what it’s like to teach my children that unless they behave perfectly in interactions with police officers, they might be killed (and that even if they do behave perfectly, they might be killed anyway). I don’t know what it’s like to struggle to find Band-Aids in my skin tone. I don’t know what it’s like to have a museum dedicated to my heritage and culture finally open on the National Mall — 400 years after the first black people arrived in this nation. I don’t know what it’s like to be called exotic, or thug, or the n-word. There is a lot that I don’t know. There is a lot that I can’t know.
I am not black, but I am a human being. And being black in America is something I observe, if not experience, every day. I absolutely know that I cannot speak for black America — and I also know that there may be no such thing as one single black America, simply due to the incredible diversity within a community that’s often painted with one broad stroke of the brush. But I saw Dae’Anna Reynolds comfort her mother as Philando Castile bled out in the passenger seat. I saw a murderer successfully defend himself after shooting a black teenager carrying nothing but Skittles. Just today, I saw a black female doctor recount a story of being ignored on an airplane when the flight attendants called for medical assistance and she volunteered. I see the anguish and exhaustion of black Americans who have simply had enough — and yet it keeps on coming.
But lest you think that, like Donald Trump, I only see being black in America as something to be remedied — to be pitied — I also see joy, and community, and power. I saw Black Lives Matter come together and make its voice heard when its members were too frustrated and angry to continue living in silence. I saw #oscarssowhite become a trend when black Americans and their allies grew tired of black invisibility in film culture, and I saw Hamilton rocket to the top of the cultural zeitgeist for its portrayal of our founding fathers as black and Latino men. I see joy in the face of Zoe, the two-year-old black girl who became Internet famous when her mother posted her first-day-of-school picture on Twitter, her eyes alight and her tongue poking out of her mouth in a goofy grin.
I can’t experience it myself, so I can only see being black in America through these glimpses, and thousands and thousands of other glimpses like them, into other people’s lives. I know that my countrymen are struggling, and that I could be doing more to help. I don’t ask that they educate me in what I could be doing; I know that’s my responsibility to discover on my own. But I also know that black America has its successes and triumphs and happinesses, and I refuse to discount those. For now, I can continue to pay attention to the people and the culture around me — to Zoe, to the cultural significance of dreadlocks, to that female doctor on the airplane, to the black/white wage gap, to Philando Castile, to Michelle Obama, to the black man who panhandles on my street corner — to so much and so many who help make up the rich fabric of the world in which I live. And I can pay attention to, and learn from, the millions of Americans whose struggles and joys I cannot begin to truly understand, but with whom I nonetheless share the most important trait of all — humanity.”