Written by: Aubree Danielle
My name is Aubree Danielle, an 18 year old African American Female. This is what people see when they see me. Not a girl , not a teenage girl, but a black girl in America. It's like I’m introducing myself without an introduction. As a young black girl I am faced with the everyday struggle of having to be aware of my every move, this is something that other white girls my age don’t and should not have to deal with either. I want to shed light on a few things I have dealt with from my earliest memory of life. As a black girl facing racism in her everyday life, it is my job to fight oppression now... so my conversations with my child can be “this is what was” not “this is what is”.
My first realization of how others see me
I recently shared a poem titled “I breathe for you”. In this poem I spoke about the first experience I had with racism at 5 years old. One of my “friends” told me that I couldn't sit at her table because I was black and I remember being taken back by the comment but still wanting to be friends with the girl because I didn’t know any better. However, I want to speak about the first time I truly realized people in this world saw me differently than everyone else. I was in kindergarten at the age of 5 or 6 and I was playing with my friends. Just how kids play house or family, we were reenacting scenes from the movie Highschool Musical. We were picking characters and I raised my hand and said “I want to play Gabriella!”. I will never forget the look on those kids' faces that day and they replied with “no you have to play Taylor, she looks like you AND she’s a side character”. I remember thinking “but you want to play Sharpay, she’s blonde and you’re brunette, and you want to play Troy, he’s a boy, you’re a girl”.
I remember the exact feeling I had that day and when I think about it now, I have the same pit in my stomach.
They only saw me for my skin and so does the rest of the world. They only put me in one box as “the token black girl” or “the side character”.
How to make the biggest difference as an ally
I find that the things I remember the most that make the biggest difference are the microaggressions that I face on a daily basis. These are the things that seem lesser than blatant racism but make the biggest impact on my daily life. Here are a few of those things:
My hair is not a prop
I recently had to unlearn the years of hatred towards my natural hair. I straightened my hair from 3rd till 11th grade which caused damage and I was finally tired of it. I was tired of the self hate and the insecurity surrounding my hair so I finally decided to wear it naturally again. The questions I would get on a daily basis were frustrating and consisted of “how did your hair get that curly”, “you should try straightening it”, and “can I touch it”. I’m struggling to put this topic into a few sentences because it is so complex, yet so simple. My curls are not an object for anyone to stare at or play with IT’S JUST HAIR.
Things like saying “he’s the nicest black guy I know”, and “you’re pretty for a black girl”. These are things even friends of mine have said that I responded to with anger and then got told I was being over dramatic by another friend. I tried to explain that you don't have to say he’s the nicest black guy, he’s just a nice guy, and I’m not pretty for a black girl, I’m just pretty. Statements like these make it seem like it is not normal for black men to be nice and black girls to be pretty, and even though your intentions might be pure, it does more harm than good. Trying to explain this I get looked at sideways instead of the person who actually made the comment.
Comparing my skin to yours
This is something that would happen to me quite often, especially in middle school. White kids would come back from vacation with a tan, place their arm next to mine and then proceed to joke about how they’re almost as dark as me. This is something that made me feel uncomfortable and at the time I would laugh with them because again I wanted to fit in. The most frustrating part about this is that the same kids trying to get “as tan as me” end up hating me because of it.
I am not an “angry black girl”
I have been about equality for as long as I can remember. Not just black and white, not just men and women, but equality for all people. I have always felt this calling in my life to stand up for others, and I would often get criticized for doing so. I have been labeled angry or aggressive more times than I can count when in reality I would just always stand up for myself and others. When a white male performs a hate crime it is labeled as mental illness, when a black community uses freedom of speech to address the injustices towards us we are labeled as thugs.
I am not the angry black girl, I am a black girl who happens to be angry about being treated unfairly her entire life.
No...you cannot say the N word
This feels like something I shouldn’t have to explain. It is not just a word, It hurts deeper than you could ever imagine. I don’t care if your other black friends let you say it, do not say it around me or at all. I don’t know why you feel a need to say it anyway, it is not your word to say.
This is a difficult topic to cover because there are so many deep rooted layers to it. After 3rd grade, I did not wear braids to school until I was a senior in high school. I did not feel like I could celebrate my own culture mostly in fear of judgement and ignorant questions. I had to finally say to myself, why should I care what others think, my hair should not affect my education. There have been countless times where black girls have been sent home from school for having natural hair or braids and black women and men at work being told that their afro’s and locks are unprofessional. This is why seeing white girls being praised for wearing african originated hairstyles hurts so deeply. They are not setting a new trend, these styles have been worn for years by black men and women. It is not just with hair but with fashion and even speech. On me it is “ghetto” but on you it’s trendy and that is not ok. If you’re going to do these things, at least know where they really come from, spread your appreciation for it, and stand up for the black people who get demonized for it.
Now it’s your turn...
In my 18 years of life, I can count on one hand how many times a non POC stood up for me. However, I could never keep track of the amount of times I've been told I’m too sensitive. As an ally of the black community, think as to why I might be sensitive to certain topics. It is a wound that opened when I was born and has never had the chance to heal.
When a black girl or boy tells you their story listen to them. Listen with the intent to learn and understand.
Understand that you will never understand my struggle as a black female. Use your privilege as a white person in America to stand up for others and not make them feel small.
Educate yourself on the struggle of a black American, and as a teacher / educator, do not just go by the history books. Do your own research and encourage others to do the same.
Understand the meaning of Black Lives Matter. It does not mean others don’t, it means that black lives are in danger right now and we need your help to fight against the systematic oppression that this country was built on.
The voices of white people standing with us is what will make the biggest change! What are you doing to contribute to that change?
Take a look at yourself and ask yourself how you may have contributed to the oppression of black people. This does not make you a terrible person, but instead acknowledges your place in this world, and what you can do to shift it.
Remember this: White privilege does not mean you have never had struggles, but that the color of your skin will never be one of them.