I can see you.
Black mothers, I can see you. I can see you standing there, clutching your children in fear to your chest. Eyeing a world all too willingly to villainize them based on the color of their skin. I can see your hunched shoulders, your faces lined with worry and stress. I can see the way you pull those babies into you, trying your hardest to wrap yourself around them like a human shield. I can see your sadness and your hopelessness when you realize you can’t. That you have to send them out, and out there you can’t protect them. I can see your exhaustion, the wrinkles that line your face and how maybe you’re too young for them to be there. I can see the life you have to live put them there. I can see your pain and the way your hearts shatter when one of yours is taken, again, and they’re blamed for it. I can see the way your grief wars with your anger and how your hands shake with it. I can see you, black mothers. I can see you.
Black fathers, I can see you as well. I can see the frustration that crinkles the skin around your eyes. The way the you’re consistently painted as being absent. I can see you going to school, going to work, being a part of your community in spite of that. A silent argument no one hears. I can see the way others skirt past you on the streets, eyeing you with suspicion and fear when all you’re trying to do is get home after another long day. I can see you still doing: doing your best, trying your damndest, raising your children to do the same. I can see you being the punchline to jokes and facing casual and blatant racism and a system that is just so damn unfair. I can see the frustration in the way your hands clench and in the hard set of your mouth, yet you remain hopeful for better days. Black fathers, I can see you.
Black boys, I can see you. I can see how angry you are. How enraged. I can see how you eye the odds and cards stacked against you and you want to knock them over. I can see the way you’re represented, how the media handles your deaths, how worthless they view your lives. I can see the way you’re targeted, the tiny little injustices and the massive ones you are forced to endure and how you’re demonized no matter what you do or how you handle them. I can see your fear, your pain, your hurt, your hopelessness. I can see how tired you are, and you still have such a long fight ahead of you. I can see the way it all boils over, how all those emotions blur and blend until they’re a mess of swirling, uncontrollable fury. You haven’t been heard in your peace, I can see how you hope you’ll be heard in your rage. Black boys, black men, I can see you.
I can see you, black girls. I can see the sexism you face. I can see the way you’re portrayed. I can see the way you want to protect your mothers and your fathers and your brothers, how it’s your every instinct to do so. I can see that when you do that, you face the same racism as well as sexual harassment. I can see the way you’re discredited, deconstructed, filed away as simply angry when anger is too simple an emotion to describe the storm inside you. I can see the way society picks apart your appearance, shuns your blackness from beauty ideals. I can see how you’re negated as a fetish and how, despite all of that, you’ll still put yourselves on the front lines to defend yours. I can see the knowledge in your eyes that one day you’ll maybe have your own children, and you’ll be bringing them into a world where they’ll be in your shoes. I can see just how scared you are. Black girls, black women, I can see you.
I’ve wondered, so many times, how to make it all better. What I can do, aside from listening, striving to do and be better myself. Other than making sure I’m only lending my voice to the conversation and not dominating it. I’ve evaluated, and reevaluated, the language I’ve used, the views I’ve held, the way I’ve thought about things. I’ve questioned why I stubbornly cling to the idea of being colorblind, and asked myself if that was simply a passive way of reassigning responsibility. I determined that it was, and changed that. I’ve vowed to continue changing, continuing doing all of those things, the more I listen and learn. I’ve asked myself, and continue to ask myself, why I’m speaking when I do speak. What my motivations are for saying the things I do when I do. What my motivations are for staying silent when I do.
You have a long, tiring, frustrating, and angering fight ahead of you, black people, and I can’t make that better, not on a large scale. But I can hear you. I can see you. And I do. I will. I can try, and will try, to help make others do the same.
Black folks, I see you.
*Thank you to Micah for sending on these links and for always talking, patiently yet insistently, and being the kind of friend who says, “Hey. I love you. Check your privilege.”
[I’ve gone back and forth on doing this, but just this once, I’m turning the comments on this post off.]