What does it mean to have Amandla Stenberg, a 17-year-old Black girl, come out as bisexual on Snapchat? Or continually speak up in Hollywood for blackness? For Stenberg it means she’s no longer trying to conform into categories that don’t fit her. For the rest of us, it means we might be able to do the same thing.
During a candid moment on Snapchat Amandla highlighted how, “it’s a really really hard thing to be silenced and it’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and to mold yourself into shapes that you just shouldn’t be in.” Stenberg has no interest in fitting into anyone’s categories. What she is interested in is enlightening others on the blant disrespect or ignorance for Black culture, lives, and beauty.
She also co-directed a series of videos with Teen Vogue discussing all #BlackGirlMagic topics like hair and our varied Black experiences. Here’s my favorite:
While being Black in America, you don’t just wake up and realize your body is unwanted. This realization happens gradually, and for every Black child, there comes a moment when they are first confronted with racism. For my roommate, it happened when a classmate asked her why she was a “nigger”. For my mother, it happened with a boy who loved to call her a black cat because she was so dark. For me, it happened when someone asked if I only drank Kool-Aid.
We didn’t learn until later those were things you shouldn’t say. Our continued tolerance that fueled our silence didn’t result in outrage. The words remained with us like scars reminding us that racism is not dead. It’s alive and kicking.
Stenberg is not waiting for someone to give her permission to start talking. She started and we have not been able to stop listening.
Commenting on what it’s like to be Black in America is easier said than done. You can’t just point and shoot and think that all the words will flow out of you without a moment of hesitation. Honestly, it’s hard, especially when you’re a young Black kid trying to figure out who you are, what you want, or even who is and is not your friends. Sure, just laugh at the joke your slightly racist friend just told and don’t stir the pot because you have nothing to lose. However, we need to realize that we have everything to lose. Every moment whether it is a physical, verbal, or emotional violence toward Black lives, is a traumatic moment that has the possibility to destroy more Black people.
Stenberg isn’t the only teenager who is feeling this way or realizing how outdated the conversation or representation of Black individuals is in 21st century America. She represents the voices of how Black youth everywhere are feeling in a society that never fails to prove that you and your body are unwanted. Although, we can’t stop listening to every woke word that Stenberg has to say, more of us need to join the conversation.
We all have different experiences that equally matter. We need the world to watch and listen to us too.