It’s Not Hard to Be Black…It is Hard To Be Misunderstood

The recent deaths of Black people across the country is staggeringly familiar. I wonder, how many times do I have to process this? How many times do I have to feel the rise of anxiety that swells through my belly, explodes through my heart and mind, and causes me to freeze in place and silently scream for help into an abyss where no one answers back?

I also marinate on why we speak about the death of Black women as an afterthought, why we leave the death of Black trans women out of the narrative completely, and if I or any of my friends or family are next. None of this negates the personal light we shine on Black men losing their lives at the hands of police, it just better completes the web of racism we continue to find ourselves ensnared in since 1619.

Because of COVID-19, I cannot physically get close to friends or family for solace. We are separated by miles or by six arduous feet that might as well be a continent away because I can’t wrap my arms around my people that are hurting most.

In the time since George Floyd’s death has been broadcast globally, I have tried to identify what my responsibility is to elevate the battle against white supremacy. In my sadness, I’ve paused and questioned my place in the system. I’m exhausted, my cohorts are exhausted. The abyss I mentioned? This year is holding us by our toes over its opening.

After a few days and several miles in my running shoes, I recognize my responsibility. I will continue to lead with the lenses of anti-racism and inclusion of marginalized communities. I will focus my work on specific racial identities while supporting the work that happens in the intersections. And I will continue to acknowledge that sharing racial understanding and education is a vital part of the whole picture of my community work.

I want to do work that makes life better for other people and I can do that by advocating in the spaces I occupy. That does not mean every Black person has to do that job. One Black person’s choice of work is exactly that. Non-Black community has to also do the work of seeking out opportunities to learn. The best way I heard this explained was at an equity training by a fellow participant: Black people know everything about white people and White spaces. We need to understand it to survive. Black people need some of that in kind. We need the respect for us that is equally beneficial to them.

My most important lesson in the current moment and through this life generally is that I love being Black and the complexities within Blackness. I love the creatives, the tastemakers, the cool ones, the leaders, and everyone who lives their lives with all the joy they can find. It’s not hard to be Black. It is hard to be misunderstood and vilified. My hope is that this time, it really can start to be different.

— Karol Collymore