My Planet of the Apes
Earlier this week, I had the news on when he came home from work. When I explained the breaking story, all he could do was shake his head. As I served the meal I made, I felt myself becoming more and more irritated. After one of the kids prayed, we ate, talked about the day each of us had, the kids finished their food, excused themselves and went to play. The conversation of the news story continued; the discussion of words.
Let me introduce myself. I'm a 39 year old, college educated, wife and mother of two, who happens to be Black. I live on planet Earth, but I've been strategically placed on an otherwise "comically" known place called, the Planet of the Apes. Hi, I'm Linette. My husband is a white, college educated male and he lives on Earth, the whole, "pure planet," Earth. We have two children together and although they don’t know it, they live on the same planet I do. Why, you ask...ummm, because see, they have a single drop of Black blood, (more than one but you get it) and they're considered Black instead of what they truly are... a combination of Black and White. (Biracial/interracial, whatever you fancy.) Crazy, right? Yeah. I make this introduction because unfortunately, one of those adjectives I used for myself is seen as derogatory for many. It is absolutely exhausting. The adjectives used to describe me, I think, are all positive. For others, the word Black, is seen as substandard. The devil is a liar! The word, Black, is heavy. It’s a weight I never want my children to carry as a burden. It should be seen as a simple word; an unapologetic characteristic. A definition of strength and beauty. A whole word; not a sentence; and definitely not a seen as life sentence.
Sticks and Stones
The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” is misleading. Words hold weight, people. They change lives, they affect decisions…they can control actions. A noun isn't a verb or action until you make it work! Catch that? What someone says to you can make you doubt something you know to be true. I grew up hearing the many things I could do in life. I heard how amazing I was daily. My parents spoke life for me and created my existence. I saw the words, “God is love” written across countless polaroid pictures in all my photo albums. Those words were pressed upon my heart before I ever even knew what they meant or experienced God's love for myself. That is powerful! I heard how beautiful my skin was, how beautiful my hair was and I believed it. I never questioned my worth, my value, beauty or my ability until I heard the words of someone else say something differently. How could that be? Something that was etched into every fiber of my being by people who loved me beyond measure was totally eclipsed by, wait for it... words. That's how powerful words are and they should never be taken for granted.
My relationship with my husband is almost 20 years old. He recognizes that life for him is different and more than half of that is based on two words, black female. He hears me talk about the struggles that I go through, simply being a black female. From the stereotypes made, to the lack of personal care items in the local stores. Even the little things are giants in my world. He doesn’t know what it feels like to rarely hear words of encouragement or see positive images of himself portrayed. He’s seen me become outraged, cry uncontrollably and become deeply hurt by comments and treatment towards me or the kids. It’s rough out here, ya’ll, and that is why we must be vigilant, aware and appalled when these flippant, “joke” type comments are made. As insignificant as they may seem to some, they are mountains to others. Words may not physically hurt you, but once they're in the atmosphere, they stay there. They distort your views and sometimes they can change your mind. They are powerful. Period.
Think of knowledge like a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Education is the rock, ignorance is scissors and love is paper. Education beats ignorance every time. Ignorance can cut love in a heartbeat, but love can cover education. If you shoot with scissors, (ignorance), and I shoot with paper, (love) I get cut and lose the game, so do you, because without love there is no desire to learn more about any one thing. If I shoot with rock, (education), and you shoot with paper, (love), you cover me and we both win. The rock/ foundation of a successful society is education, followed by the covering of love. Those two together can beat ignorance every time. When you know better, you do better. When you are educated you fear less. When you gain knowledge, you can share. When you can share, you can connect and when you connect you grow.
Racism isn’t new, folks. It hasn't left and reappeared. It's has been and is still here. I’ve experienced it and my children have experienced it. Yes, even now, in 2018. Racism. It’s unmistakably one of my greatest fears for my family. I never want my husband to ever be forced to make the choice between himself and his family based on the hue of our skin. BUT, believe it or not, living in an area where you’re .5% of the population, or where racism is undeniably real and not outwardly spoken against, that very thing could really happen. It’s a despicable thing to endure and tolerate, especially for children who don’t understand it, don’t deserve it and shouldn’t be exposed to it. So, for those of you who say, “they’re just words,” remember God spoke the words, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1: 3) and light was created. Let’s make sure the words spoken around the world continue to bring light.
This is not a game. There is a generation depending and hanging on every word we speak. I challenge you to speak life. Planet Earth needs to glow, let there be light! And the imaginary planet that I, and so many others who look like me have been placed on, needs to be erased.