How Trayvon Martin’s Murder, Incidents Like This and Other Ignorance Make Me Feel About Being a Black Person in America Today

Sunday, 06 May 2012 14:46 Written by  Iya Bakare

One morning, days after the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin, my co-workers and I discussed the incident. We all sat in disbelief and disgust as we tried to understand why this young man was senselessly pursued, attacked and murdered simply because of the color of his skin and no other reason. As I sat there and shared my experiences with racism while I lived here in Chicago and my 11 years I spent in the South, one of my co-workers jokingly (but half seriously) asked me, “Iya, what’s it like to be a black woman in today’s society?” I think it has nothing to do with gender and more to do with race. So the question is: What does it feel like to be a black person in today’s society? My answer depends on what day it is, because I have more than one response.

In an age when the president of our country and his wife are African American and they rear beautiful, black children, one may think times are changing. And they are…or are they?

I try not to get offended when people call me outside of my name because it’s what I respond to that matters, but one could empathize with me as I sat in shock when a man called my sister and I the n-word and b-word on a public bus one night last summer. How was that any different from the days when my mother was 18 and wasn’t allowed to vote? Sure, we can all drink from the same water fountain and I don’t have to ride on the back of the bus, but do people still see black Iya, or do you they see Iya?

I think the fact I have to ask answers my question. What happened to Trayvon answers my question. The common denominator is the color of our skin. And what freaks me out is Trayvon could have been my cousin, my best friend or could have been me. On my sporty days, I wear hoodies. Would someone necessarily know by looking at me “dressed down” I have a Master’s degree? The man who called me outside of my name that night certainly didn’t know and didn’t care.

Despite all of the ignorance and hatred in this world, I know who I am. I know I am blessed, educated, cultured and can experience facets of life my ancestors, grandmother, aunt and mother couldn’t at my age. For that, I am grateful. Grateful to them for what they had to endure so I can be here. I also realize there is still ignorance in this world I must combat every day, but I refuse to use it as a crutch. I’d rather use it as fuel to strive to do and be the best.


Photo by GMO Photo Editor Billy Montgomery from Chicago's Rally for Justice last March.

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare, GMO's managing editor, earned both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in print journalism. She earned her B.A. from Delta State University with a minor in English and graduated with a M.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago. In her spare time, the Chicago native continues to freelance and ponder ways to both inform and improve her community one story at a time.

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