"It All Started to Click"
by REMY STYRK
I remember having “the talk” with my dad when I was in elementary school. I would hang out with a few friends in Corinth square and then walk back by myself. At this time, I nor my friends had IDs on us. I blended in with them enough to peacefully play and enjoy the innocence of childhood, but the minute we separated and I began the mile walk back to my house, I became an outsider, a threat, someone who really doesn’t belong passing by homes and pedestrians. My dad took a picture of him and me standing next to our house with the address visible and large. This way I could show that I do belong here. It all started to click. When we would travel, the TSA agent would automatically assume my brother and dad were related, but stop me and ask for my ID or not acknowledge me when they were checking in my dad and brother. When walking alone, parents walking with their kids would cross the street or make eye contact and seem to hold their kids a little harder. I chose to not read into it, I chose to enjoy the walk, the weather, counting my footsteps, and how many different colored cars there were. People would cut in front of me in lines saying their time was more important. At this point, I was living in fear, slowly detaching from myself and shifting my main focus to always being on high alert. I began to question everything I did, every word that came out of my mouth, every subtle movement. I made sure to always smile, to keep my hand visible in public, to make friendly eye contact. I was angry, confused, frozen, disquieted. I never knew what version of myself to be, when unmistakably there was only one version. That version was seen as confrontational. Others are allowed to frown when sad, to glower when angry, to simply have a bleak expression without a thought of danger. They could put their hoods up for comfort with no consequences. I kept smiling. They wanted me to smile. I wanted to feel my emotions, to process, to heal. I just smiled. I’m an adult now. I drive a nice car, I’m well dressed and look after myself. I’m always ready to help, support, take care of someone else before myself. The one thing I will never do is be twice as nice as the white people. I am equal, I am human, I deserve the chance to be heard and seen in a new light, a neutral light. I’ve lived, traveled, and navigated this life for 21 years and I refuse to continue to be a product of what they want. I know myself and what I want, need, deserve. I deserve love, respect, patience. I want to succeed, to inspire, to learn more about myself. I need to live, to go on, to breathe. I’m proud to be black. I’m proud and everlastingly grateful to be alive.
To my white friends, family, acquaintances the most powerful tool you have right now aside from your privilege, is the act of listening. Listen to these stories. Listen to us. We need to throw our egos out the window and listen to each other. Please do not make our stories about you, our pain, our hurt, our anxiety. We want to be heard, we don’t want to hurt. It’s time to finally make a difference safely, healthily, and with the undying support of black lives. BLACK LIVES MATTER.