Everyday I wake up and certain things remain true. I am a black woman living in America. While my mood may change, the places I go, the people I see, the things I do may vary, this always remains to be true. What also remains true is I don’t know which one to be more afraid of.
Being a woman means my body is constantly being judged, laid on the slab to be analyzed, commodified, and consumed and never at my own discretion. I am constantly reminded that my body is not my own. It is merely an object for the gaze of others. It is merely a topic of discussion, or a conversation starter. My body belongs to the eyeballs that look upon it, and I have no choice but to let them.
Being black, particularly in America, means I’m already in the wrong. It means that every time I step into the world I’m prepared for something. Something hateful, something scary, something senseless. It means every time my mother texts me saying to call her I’m prepared for her to tell me something’s happened to my brother. That my brother has now become Trayvon Martin, or Eric Garner or Terence Crutcher. It means that every time I go just a little too long without calling home, some part of her is prepared to hear that something’s happened to me. That I’ve become Renisha McBride, or Sandra Bland, or Reika Boyd. It means that I’m unsafe living in my own skin.
People who are hateful and uniformed say if it’s “so awful” here, leave. Run away and never come back. Well, that’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Escape to somewhere. The only problem is no matter where I go, I will always be a black woman. Still living in fear simply for existing. So what do I do? Stay and be afraid or run and be afraid? I guess the only other constant is the feeling of being afraid. I’m afraid of what our society has become. Where I, a black woman, in the land of the “free” and the home of the “brave” is afraid to simply exist.
The real choice then isn’t to leave or stay, but to be afraid or not. I wish I could just say “I won’t be afraid. I will be strong and stand up to injustice. And fight. And be loud. And again, not be afraid.” But that gets exhausting, constantly telling yourself you’re not scared, you are brave, you can stand up. But so does hiding, living in fear, hoping that at best you go unnoticed. So I guess, if I’m going to be exhausted I’d rather it be from fighting. Fighting to be heard, fighting to be seen, fighting to hold my own. It’s scary, but so is hiding. At least this way, I’m controlling me instead of everything else.