I live in a time where people exchange high fives in celebration of dead black bodies.
Part 2 in a series
by Derin Adesida
At 15, I related most to Ralph Ellison’s unnamed protagonist in Invisible Man. I was attending The Hotchkiss School, and for the first time, I thought of myself as a minority because of my race and class. Though young, I was being exposed to the world. While privilege buffers blocked possible hardships from me, I had an opportunity to be a carefree black child. I enjoyed math, string instruments, and new dance steps. I felt regular. I played and then matured to hanging out with friends. I laughed a large free laugh and experienced a childhood unaware of the limitations my race could impose. I didn’t know that I was a young privileged black girl who was used to swaying opinion in her favor. However, while at Hotchkiss, my charm defaulted. Frustrated, I learned that race and class often trump the person and that losing the game after using the be-110%-better strategy can also mean the loss of sanity. For three years, I felt as though eyes pierced through and past me. Erasure was my everyday rejection. I didn’t believe that I mattered.
I thought I’d eventually graduate into a more inclusive world that would consider my experiences at my not common high school foreign. However, the world I’ve found is a similar one that doesn’t see the contributions and participation of Black people. I live in a world that requires middlemen and individuals to vouch for me before I can do things that I’m capable of doing. Because only we can tell our stories, black stories become myths that require receipts. Though our word and character are often questioned, we continue to be patient. We wait for peace. We tell our stories, we’re ready to enlighten, and we often turn the other cheek. We patiently wait because we know we are better than the stereotypes projected onto us. We behave to avoid the mistreatment we don’t deserve. We love neighbors who prefer us on the other side of town and are stunned still when even video evidence isn’t enough.
The advent of #BlackLivesMatter means that I live in an illogical time where some people see other people and then have to ask themselves if that person is a person like they are. I’m often puzzled by my having to say that my life matters and even more confused by the hashtag’s controversy. I have yet to hear an #AllLivesMatter advocate explain why they’re offended by #BlackLivesMatter in a thoughtful way. As a black person, a certain amount of empathy has been forced onto me because I know what it’s like to be invisible. I’m able to understand even my antagonists who cannot understand my worth. I understand that America’s denial thread is as long as it is frayed, but there are some who believe in its history enough to question me. Our long dodged race problem is finally unraveling to our discomfort, and I’m fine with that. I no longer want to pretend for the sake of comfort, so my saying #BlackLivesMatter is to antagonize this conversation into happening.
#BlackLivesMatter is said out of our frustration, not necessity, because our self-pride as black people is intrinsic. Absent of validation, it just is. We don’t remember until we have to remind others that our value just is. Maybe we’re feared more when we prefer loving ourselves to seeking approval. Maybe our nerve to protest our being killed is unacceptable to the many who refuse to see us. Since Trayvon Martin’s murder, I’ve learned that even dead black bodies are feared. I know that my live one is as safe as a target. The law hasn’t shown interest in protecting my life or safety as though it matters. It’s unfair.
Honestly, I want to get to a place in which I don’t have to care. My hope is that I won’t be penalized for having no interest in being accepted. I’ve realized that everyone will not enjoy me, and I’m okay with the thought that some people have canceled me out due to race. I’m not interested in changing the minds of people who see little value in my life. They’re a lost cause. I hope I can care so little that I’ll wake up each day to care-freedom that matches my actual freedom. I’m interested in the alternate realities I can live in because of my abilities. I adore my blackness. I know what it enables me to create. However, racism sometimes makes searching out and creating opportunities similar to running nose first into brick walls. I want a future of free invisibility. It’s not much.
However, we face sanctioned terrorism and are then victim blamed post mortem for existing in the wrong era. #BlackLivesMatter because what else can we say in order to be left alone. I live in a time where people exchange high fives in celebration of dead black bodies.
Derin Adesida is a Nigerian American actress and writer. Her work is inspired by the duality of people who are in between society and lovable losers. She’s also a dog lover who currently resides in Los Angeles with her partner.