In the process of beginning this blog (which one day I’d love to turn into a book, but we’ll see how the cards fall), I began to write down topics I was interested in exploring and touching upon through the *chapters.* One of the things I’ve learned throughout my nearly 27 years on this earth is that not everyone you meet is meant to be your friend. Not everyone you hold dear to you is meant to remain in your life––some are there for a reason and a season. You fall out of platonic love for those you once held close, whether it’s through your own maturation or something else. Sometimes you’ll mourn that loss of a friend, and other times, you’ll just move on, especially if the friendship just dissolved over time.
Especially as I’ve grown up and seen life outside of my hometown (which I’ve mentioned a few times on here is predominantly white), it’s become increasingly clear to me that through life experiences, you will notice that you’ll outgrow people. You outgrow the people you once held dear since you’ve outgrown the person you once were. It’s absotively posolutely necessary to get out of your bubble and to see the world. Those who don’t will never grow, never learn, and never see how others live, think and interact. It’s their prerogative, but the mindset and framed thinking is entirely different from someone who has never been anywhere, never met anyone, and never lived…and someone who has.
Growing up, I knew I was black. Classmates wouldn’t ever let me forget it. Whether it was through the stares in my direction during a history lesson about slavery, or those lice exams in the middle of the school year and the subsequent “you can’t get lice because you don’t wash your hair, right?” comments, or the “you’re not that black” saying (ie: not stereotypically threatening, meaning that you still are afraid of black people)…I’ve always been aware that I was different.
I resented my differences for a long time. I would straighten my hair. I would try to dress like the other girls in class. I wouldn’t invite people over or even invite people in because having to explain blackness to people who will never understand is daunting (more on that in a second, trust me). Looking back, I wish I could give little(r) J’na a hug, and let her know that it’s okay to be different, and that her differences are what makes her special. That she’ll one day meet people like her, and she’ll be happy to be herself. Those who don’t understand what it’s like to be like you never will, but it’s important to educate.
However…what happens when education is not enough? What happens when you’ve been through the lessons a thousand times and people still don’t understand? What happens when things are occurring with you and people like you, and you could hear a pin drop from people you thought were your friends?
We all know what’s going on in America right now. Not only is COVID-19 ravaging primarily black and brown communities, but police brutality (though in NO way a new phenomenon) is once again a topic of conversation. I know there’s nothing else to talk about, and of course, many have reached out to show solidarity and support. It’s appreciated, and I’d also like those people to read up and educate themselves on the plight of black people in America as well as systemic oppression in this country as well. Don’t just talk about it, be about it.
However…when there is nothing else going on except for the issue at hand, how can someone not take silence personally? For the random ex-classmates from high school and college who have said nothing, I literally couldn’t care less about your silence. You go have fun with your beaches and your backyard tequila shots. You were as good as deleted regardless, and your complacency has been heard loud and clear. Just know God don’t like ugly.
But those who I’ve known since I was a very little girl, who I’ve had sleepovers with, who were there for me when my parents got divorced and my dad took our furniture when he moved out, who were there for me when my mother was dying of cancer…where are you?
I’m not taking the silence lightly this time around, especially since this instance of police brutality is not new. Black people have been killed, oppressed and silenced since the beginning of time. There is a new case and cell phone video of a terrible incident involving an unarmed black person nearly every year. You have been silent every time. Never once have you asked how I was feeling. Never once have you tried to understand or learn why these issues occur. You cannot act like you don’t see it, because the uprisings always take center stage.
For me, I’m all about education. I would much rather use my voice to speak up and call out incidents of racism for those who are too privileged to see the issues. However, what I will not do is coddle people. I can lead y’all to water, but it’s up to you to drink. If I have someone in my life who is as close to me as they say, then it’s their responsibility to reach out as a friend. If the shoe was on the other foot, they know I’d be the first one to reach out.
Is this petty to consider breaking the lease on my friendships during times such as these? Decidedly so. However, saying nothing at all is just as loud as a protestor could ever be, and true friends would never remain silence on these issues.
You know, once you’re friends with someone who doesn’t look like you, it would make sense that their problem becomes your problem. If you were truly friends with them and loved them down and deep the way you say you do, you would say something. You love to crack jokes, and go out drinking, and dancing, and to have fun with black people, but you don’t like when they point out the differences that come with that black skin. It makes you uncomfortable. But this time…it’s not about you.
Black people are uncomfortable every single day. I was uncomfortable in first grade when I was dragged by my ear by my teacher to the principal’s office for allegedly stealing my classmate’s grammar book and hiding it in my desk. I was uncomfortable in Las Vegas on my 21st birthday trip because Michael Brown’s dead body was lying on the ground for hours on the news, and I didn’t feel well enough to party when something like this was happening to my people yet a-damn-gain. It’s important to have the uncomfortable conversations, but if talking about it makes you uncomfortable, you need to get out of the mind frame that something this big is supposed to be built for your personal comfort. Life is uncomfortable for people who do and don’t look like you, and once you realize that, you will be able to grow.
If you can’t understand what black people are going through, that’s fine. But not understanding and not trying to understand are very different. If you’re not getting it by now, you’re just not getting it at all. It’s hard to grow out of habits your privilege absolves you to pick up, like not having to care when people who don’t look like you are hurting. But when the people who are hurting look like your “friends,” and you still say nothing...they are not your friends.
I feel like this post has definitely become a stream of consciousness rant and I feel like Kanye (pre-Uncle Tom of course). But all of this is to say…you will outgrow your friends. Your experiences throughout life and maturation will cause you to see the world very differently, and some people, depending on who they are, will not mature and understand the world the same way you have. It’s important to pay attention to these sorts of instances, and trust me, this week really was the eye-opener I needed on a lot of people. But I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a long time coming for a few of them.