To the Gentlemen that Walked Out During my Pro-Black Speech
On January 25, 2018, my organization hosted an open mic night for students to get on stage and share their stories with one another. It provided an opportunity for people to be more transparent with one another about the good and bad things that helped make them who they are. As president of the organization, I volunteered to start the event.
After waiting for everyone to settle in, I hopped onstage and apologized for my rough, sick voice and told everyone that I was happy to bring the event to a rough start. Everyone gave me their undivided attention and even made me feel a bit important.
I began my story by saying, "I wanna talk to you guys about blackness."
At that moment, three gentlemen that were sitting directly in front of the stage, laughed at me, shook their heads, grabbed their food, and left the dining room.
I waved to the men and continued to talk about how wonderful and liberating it is to be a Black American and how long it took for me to realize this.
For many of my formative years, I was extremely interested in Linguistics, though I did not know that it was called that. I liked the way that different languages sounded and how fun it was to learn different languages. Luckily, I was in a public school program that enriched students in foreign languages beginning in the third grade. In fact, I got really good at Spanish pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar and tried to use it in order to convince others that I was "half-Puerto Rican" or "half-Spanish," when, in reality, I'm fully black. This fact is now something that I find lots of value in; something that I wouldn't change for the world.
I wanted to give a recap of my story in case those men are reading this. Here are a few additional things that I would like them to know:
Your regard for blackness as some sort of joke, or abstract concept that does not deserve your time, is part of the reason that little black girls and boys want to be something other than what they are.
It is part of the reason that beautiful, talented artists like Amara La Negra are not being portrayed as beautiful, talented artists, but are instead labeled as "psychotic" for recognizing their status as Afro-Latino.
It is part of the reason that women of color do not feel supported by white feminists.
It is part of the reason that black and Hispanic women make less than their white female and male counterparts.
It is part of the reason that black movies receive smaller budgets and are not recognized for being successful even when they exceed expectations.
It is part of the reason that many workplaces still consider natural afro-kinky textures taboo.
It is part of the reason that we need a black history month.
It is part of the reason that we need organizations like Black Lives Matter.
It is part of the reason that we need HBCUs.
It is part of the reason that writers, producers, singers, entrepreneurs, and other movers and shakers of color need to be labeled as such.
I'm sure that you feel like you've heard this enough. That every speech made, or article written, or word said about blackness is one too many at this point. But enough cannot be enough if we are still treated as second-class. It is not enough if we are not equal.
With all of that being said, here's a bit of advice:
Instead of utilizing your privilege as a reason to exclude yourself from the conversation about blackness, use your privilege in order to ensure that conversations about blackness are heard.