One of the most irritating questions that I’m asked is “Why aren’t you smiling?” Mind you the person asking usually isn’t smiling. I’m not sure what person walks around the entire day looking like a chestire cat smiling from ear to ear. Even the most pleasant people I’ve encountered don’t smile all the time. Only clowns have painted on smiles that are visible at all times but they aren’t real.
Then I thought about deep down about why I’m not always smiling. In 2016 I’ve witnessed and experience things I never thought I would have to. The optimistic attitude I had about the country I called home and the way I am valued in it have changed.
I don’t smile because everyday I am bombarded with images or comments devaluing or endangering people that look like me based solely on the color of their skin. I don’t smile because I don’t want to draw too much attention to myself and open myself up to being a target. I don’t smile because I am hurt that men and women who look like me are being murdered weekly, sometimes daily, but somehow no one is to blame. I don’t smile because I’m angry at the ignorance that is spouted about brown skinned people and that there’s a candidate for president of the country running on that platform.
I’ve had my ups and downs about being confident as a young black woman. When I was younger I wanted to have smaller thighs, straighter hair, and a tiny nose. The images of what beauty looked like didn’t represent me so I felt like I needed to change. Within the last few years, black women have stood up and proudly decided that their natural being was beautiful. Their nappy hair, their wide noses and hips, and their skin color, no matter how dark or light was beautiful. So I said hey, I’ve only got one body and I was made this way because I’m an individual so I need to embrace it. Who cares if society says I’m beautiful as long as I believe it.
Once I finally began to love myself and in turn love my black community even more, my eyes were opened to the fact that we are under attack. And I say we because if they’ll do it to someone who looks like me, they do it to me. Racism and discrimination knows no bounds only color, status, and orientation. What was even more frightening was that I didn’t have to do anything wrong to be a victim, I just had to exist. I would weep for every story I heard or footage I saw but people were being murdered or mistreated so frequently it made me depressed to learn everyone of their names. Not only were the communities of black people being systematically oppressed, they were being taken out by the people who were supposed to protect them. Where does that leave us to turn to?
There are so many comments that I see online or overhear in my personal life that I want to address every single one but I can’t. You can’t stop someone from being ignorant, only they can do that. When the presidential election started my whole perspective of American people changed. Americans are already seen as superioristic by certain parts of the world but now the so called “melting pot” was self destructing. Even though this entire country was stolen from brown people and built by brown people, we became the problem. Not the destructive hate that people spewed but the people who simply were born brown and didn’t apologize for the way they looked, the religion they practiced, or where they came from.
I sought a different way of life so I traveled the world to see how I was treated there. I had some warm, welcoming experiences, and some standoffish, lonely experiences but the one thing that was constant was the confusion about the American political and racial division. Whenever someone asked me, “How are people supporting Donald Trump?” I didn’t have an answer. But I knew that I wasn’t going to be happy in a country that did regardless of if he is elected, it’s gone too far.
So I decided to take a break from America, it’s hatred for people who are different, it’s obsession with monetary goals and social media, and a country that was built on all people are created equal but in fine print it stated unless they look a certain way. Maybe this time away will help me get my smile back.