“all the women in me. are tired.” – Nayyirah Waheed
When I read the above micropoem by Nayyirah Waheed, it resonated with me greatly. I couldn’t help but write down the things I was fed up with. What resulted was a litany of the things I wish would just go away.
I’m tired of the fetishization of the black body,
Of feeling unsafe as a woman, a black woman.
I’m tired of being told, both directly and indirectly, that my feelings don’t matter,
That I’m too sensitive.
I’m tired of reading in the news that ANOTHER innocent black person has been killed by the police,
Has been painted as a thug, a dangerous criminal due to their pigmentation,
Not given the benefit of the doubt despite overwhelming evidence in their favour,
I’m tired that four decades after Dr. King and Malcolm X gave their lives this is still going on,
I’m tired of black face, and of people trying to justify using black face,
The monkey jokes are really getting old now, can’t racists be a bit more original?
I question how others see me. Can I trust anyone? Do I have to deal with another co-worker begging me to wear my afro out for Halloween? Am I a costume?
I’m tired of having to prove my humanity, having to prove I do have feelings,
Tired of feeling helpless about all the missing Nigerian girls, the African Ebola victims who hardly get a mention in the media these days.
Race is the elephant in the room, we don’t want to admit it.
Canada isn’t ready to discuss race,
Instead we have this kumbaya attitude to everything,
Promoting our multiculturalism policy,
Comparing ourselves positively to the States, at least we’re not them, we didn’t have slavery.
Their comments make me invisible, my issues and concerns don’t matter.
Surely I have nothing to complain about in our mosaic society?
And Lord knows I’m tired of the same nasty comments every Black History Month from the people who don’t understand why there is a need for it,
No, we’re not trying to make others feel guilty, we are trying to reclaim our history and our pride.
When ancient African civilizations were accredited to mythical lost European civilizations, rather than to their rightful African owners,
When history has been whitewashed to exclude all people of colour,
Surely a month isn’t too much to celebrate our history?
A month isn’t even long enough to catalogue the great contributions people of colour have made, but it’s a start.
Sorry to tell you but you can’t use the n-word just because your partner is black,
I don’t care if you mean it in an inoffensive way, don’t use it in my presence.
And slavery is never funny, it just isn’t,
The watermelon and fried chicken jokes are getting old; who doesn’t like fried chicken or watermelon anyway?
I’m scared that one day I’ll go missing and the police won’t care,
I’m disturbed by the fact a black life is valued so low.
If people only knew what we went through, perhaps they wouldn’t be too quick to shut us down,
If they were us they’d be tired too.
They would see the need to fight for change, to push for dialogue, something!
They would find it difficult to not become jaded,
They would feel disappointed and frustrated when those in positions of privilege ignore us,
They would experience the great effort we put into exhorting ourselves, our children
In world that tells us we are ugly, worthless and are criminals
A world in which a few black people standing together constitutes a mob,
A world in which the worst linguistic contortions are made to depict blacks in the most negative light.
I’m tired of being a prop, a photo op, a representative for the entire black race,
I’m aware that I am being used and it’s not a nice feeling,
What I’d ideally like to do is hide away in my books and ignore what’s going on ,but I have to fight this.
All I know is I’m not going to stop talking about racism, sexism and other -isms until they are over and done with.
I don’t want my younger female cousins to have to deal with as much negativity as I’ve had to,
I don’t want them to suppress their feelings and thoughts to make others comfortable. Haven’t we been made to feel uncomfortable enough?
Shrinking ourselves so as not to alarm people,
Being afraid to occupy space, just in case…
I’ve now resolved to not worry about the names people may call me.
If they wish to call me strident, so be it.
Neurotic, I’m fine with that too.
There is a time in someone’s life and in history when enough is enough.
Being authentic to oneself is more important than popularity.
Fighting the status quo is more important than pretending everything is okay