This is part of a series called: 10-minute thoughts because I wrote it in that amount of time.
This is a year of self-discovery. This is a time that I’ve thought about pieces of my personality as individual scopes. An issue that has been front and center this year has been racial relations. James Baldwin’s I am not your negro inspired this reflection.
It’s been years since my eyes opened to the fact. Still, I feel like I’m new to this. Imagine being dropped into a pickup basketball game, never having played the game, but you’re expected to know all the rules and play by them. You’ve heard of basketball, that people played years ago and still do in some parts of the world. You, however, are a noob.
I remember the first time I said the word Nigger. It felt so foreign to me. Like when you wake up in the morning and brush your teeth then go on to have breakfast. Your mom made pancakes with syrup. The mixture of pancakes with syrup and toothpaste gives you an odd taste in your mouth. Something foreign, that doesn’t quite fit. That’s how it felt to say the word. Now it’s been a little over 15 years but it’s not any easier for me to say it. I’m older, which means I can hide my discomfort a little better…actually, a lot better when I say it (knee gah, knee grow). It’s still just as foreign as it was when I said it the first time.
I may not quickly correct someone who has no place in saying it…simply because I still don’t feel like I have a place in saying it or in correcting them.
Envy chokes me when I hear friends, who grew up like me, let it roll off their tongues like it was part of their mother tongue. They seem to have figured out the basketball game when I’m still learning the rules. They are believable when they speak.Their accent can mimic the kind that 14-year-old me wanted so badly. I realize how odd it is for me to be envious of such things. The underlying theme is still that they’re black shaped pegs that have found others like them while I still struggle to.
Luckily, 29-year-old me has figured out that in fact, she has always had a place in the world, it wasn’t the same placed she longed for. She and I are at peace with it.