I am a grad student at a prestigious University. This University’s attempts at diversity highlights its whiteness, and it consumes me. The attempts to be culturally aware, sensitive, competent, and other, has left room only for white fragility. It offers its white students and staff space, in front of non-white students and staff, a safe space to process their white guilt and shed their white tears. It’s where a white professor feels safe enough to stand before his class, which includes black students, and explain that he was beat up by black kids when he was young, and they took his lunch money, and so it’s okay if he becomes afraid when he sees a black man walking towards him.
If I were to say what I wanted to say, I would tell my white professor that he did not need to tell us why he is afraid of black men and that he lives with that bias. I would question him on his ability to treat black men in his private practice as a therapist. I would argue that he should not teach black students about mental health and wellness, my major. I would tell him that his privilege has allowed him to feel safe saying this in a classroom that includes a black man as a student—the same space I do not feel safe saying how tired I am of white fragility. I would tell that class that it is not okay and that I am tired of being called and asked to speak up in front of white people about what is not okay. I am tired of educating you about my hurt black feelings. I am tired of explaining the macro of what micro-aggressions are.
I would tell the willfully ignorant people at my University about how uncomfortable it makes me to have to constantly and consistently speak up against their aggression, but yet I have to because the guilt that comes with not using my voice outweighs that discomfort. My people have died wanting to say what was on their mind. My people would have died terrible deaths if they said to white people what I am allowed to say today. My voice is not oppressed and yet still, I remain quiet from the fatigue that consumes me with saying it the way white people need me to say it. Because the truth is, I still use my voice to please and ease white folk. My black truth is too harsh for your gentle white ears. I’ve made white people comfortable in the ways I tell them they hurt me—hurt us. I am gentle when showing them who they are, and my soul weakens. I offend my people who were murdered for their outcry, their voice, when I decide I am too tired to use mine and my soul grows all the wearier.
I am not tired because I have used my voice so much. I am tired because I use so much energy taming its volume. I grow weary from using only every other word that my heart burns to say. I grow tired from holding my lips in constraint while my spirit converse with my ancestors who are yelling for me to use my damn voice. Their outcry deafens me and I retreat.
Micro-aggressions aren’t enough to get me to use my voice, so what is? A nine year old black child handcuffed and pepper sprayed by white officers as she calls out for her daddy? A black teenage girl body slammed unconscious by a white man? A black woman shot in her own home by a white man and no justice served. All this while my white peers shed tears of the guilt they feel for being white as my non-white peers are forced to speak about social justice in front of them—assignments for grades… for the degree. I tolerate it. It consumes me.
We march, we rally, we organize and we burn out. We are silenced by our own for not speaking the truth of all black people as a whole but rather speaking our individual, authentic, personal truth that sit’s there at the tip of our tongue, dormant and loud.
My lips are tired and my soul is weary.
I am a tired black woman and I only desire peace.
I sacrifice that desire and use my voice- its energy no longer contained. God has called me to be loud and bold. God has charged me with the voice he supplied to speak for the buried souls that would die again and again to use their voice, to speak their truth. I heed to the call. Not because I desire it. Not because it’s comfortable or uncomfortable. Not because it’s needed. But simply because, it’s there.