How is a Black woman created? Is she born with ‘sass’ on her tongue and anger in her eyes? At what point in my life did my heart and my mind feel the weight of my Blackness?
Was it my hair? Was it in the way my mother discouraged me from wearing it out, natural, unadorned? Was it the way the kids laughed, calling my brightly colored braids yarn, only to call the twists of strings in their corn-colored tresses fashion?
Was it my skin? Was it in the way I stood out against the other kids in my class? Was it all the times I was to stay inside unless I wanted to be cursed, caramel brown turned to shit by the kiss of sun?
Was it in my body? Did the thickness of my lips, size of my nose, definition in my arms rob me of femininity? I bloomed under bitter glances at the mirror. Was it my fault that wandering eyes took in the size of my hips, the heaviness of my breasts, and assumed I could never be a child? I wrapped my innocence up in baggy clothes.
What made me realize I was a Black woman? Was it because my love was heavy? A gentle giant not good at hiding—should I have used it to carry their egos? Why was it that I was everything they wanted, but in the wrong packaging?
The more I try to trace my journey, the more memories overlap into the kaleidoscope of micro-aggressions, anti-Blackness, and internalized hatred. It took too long. It took too long to wear my skin with pride. It took too long to look at my reflection in the eyes. It took too long to be satisfied. I spent too long trying to erase myself in others’ eyes. I thought, “Look at me! I know your people, I love your culture, I can fit in here! Let me be one of you!” But no matter what I painted myself as, my Blackness cracked the picture into pieces.
The more I try to trace my journey, the more memories overlap into the kaleidoscope of micro-aggressions, anti-Blackness, and internalized hatred.
I have grown through the weeds of childhood into a fully-bloomed Black woman. And I am tired. I reached the light at the end of my identity and I wanted to rest. I was a Veteran coming home from 18 years at war with myself and I expected my revelations, my victories, to come with peace. I expected them to come with a coconut and shea butter-moisturized halo. I expected wisdom to pour out from my lips and to never shrink myself again for anyone’s acceptance, but I found that enlightenment is lonely. Up there, where my skin is made in the image of God, I found that my war came at a bigger cost. I could no longer lift people to me. Not everyone could be taught. Not everyone would grow to enter the promised land that is a Black woman, the land flowing with music and honey. I have grown too much.
I have grown to find out that not all the people I tried to call friends are for me. I have grown to see myself struggle to not be bitter. Struggle to think beyond rage, beyond disappointment at my Asian, Latinx, and POC communities. I have grown beyond heartbreak at the lack of actionable support from American churches. I have grown to doubt God’s plans for justice. I have grown to think that it was easier when my Blackness didn’t roar out of me.
I have grown to see myself struggle to not be bitter.
I have grown to see myself live, but I have grown to be so tired of living. Tired of living through the sight of another black body killed on the street; living through numbing myself just long enough to get through work. Tired of living through the nightmares of the past. I am tired of living through sleepless nights crying for other families.
I have grown to see myself terrified. Terrified that nothing will ever change. Terrified that I’ll hate my skin once again.
As a Black woman, fully grown, I have whittled down my dreams. I have plucked the stars out of my eyes so I wouldn’t reach for the sun. Instead, I just want peace. I want justice. I want rest. I want life. I want Black joy to matter. I want Black pain to be healed. I want Black bodies to matter. I want Black lives to live.