It’s hard to explain what it’s like to “be Black”. How do you explain (to white people) that our experiences are different without actually knowing what their experiences have been like? It seems a little hypocritical to say “our experiences have been different but you shouldn’t treat me any different”. But we are different. I was trying to explain this difference, and found myself lingering between a weak comparison to the Jewish experience and giving up the entire conversation as a lost cause because it is, after all, a Black thing.
I was trying to explain that it’s different to navigate the world as a Black woman. I was a little shocked that this wasn’t taken as fact and that I was pushed to explain. But I was left with this simple but I think accurate explanation: there were certain things that I had to learn that you will never have to learn. But I’m not sure that was enough. Forgive my lack of clarity but it seems appropriate given the difficulty I had expressing my feelings about the topic.
To be plain, there is no concise way to explain the fact that I’ve had to work twice as hard to be considered just as smart. And there’s no way to describe the constant battle with those who believe that the only way I could have attended Duke is as a student-athlete. There’s not a way to describe the measured way I approach strange white people until I’m sure they aren’t racist (are you ever really sure though? Just kidding). How do I explain that I had to learn how to deal with police? That I had to learn that sometimes “the N-word” is more than just a word?
There’s a quiet contemplation that I’ve had to develop that helps me decide what is pertinent and what isn’t when it comes to matters of race. I won’t say that it’s unique to the Black experience because there is no way that I can know that. What I can say is that being Black is different. There’s a different set of rules, a different set of expectations and a different set of worries but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.