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.