My name is Ava Hyde and I’m writing this at 2 AM, kept awake by incessant thoughts of racial injustice in this country. Thus, given that I’ve been awake for 17 hours, please forgive any grammatical errors on my part.
I’ve found that when trying to speak on these issues, I feel slightly uncomfortable. As a mixed person, I am well aware that my lighter skin protects me from the full extent of colorism. Because of this, I worry that I risk taking attention away from “real” Black people, as irrational as it may seem to you. However, because I will never be able to pass as White in any respect, I personally believe that I am not at fault to share my opinion from the perspective of a Black teenage girl. (Now, those might just be the worst adjectives a person has attached to themselves in this country.)
In light of recent events, I’ve been feeling a myriad of emotions. Anger. Fear. Sadness. Disappointment. Most of all, I have felt powerless. It is more difficult than ever to accept that I am not currently in a position to change the things that are inherently wrong with this country - and the one person who is in that position is more concerned with appeasing his White supremacist followers enough to get re-elected.
However, I still push for other people to get involved and spread important messages over social media. Through this, one common thread I’ve been seeing is the counter-movement “All Lives Matter”. I’d like to share my opinion on this statement. It is clear that all lives do matter, and I wholeheartedly support equality between all people despite race, gender, sexuality, religion, and every nugatory category that we divide ourselves into. However, throughout history, this country has proved time and time again that in many instances, Black lives simply do not matter to the justice system - seeing as police officers such as those who shot Breonna Taylor eight times in her sleep have not been arrested.
This is why I was appalled to see a woman holding up an “All Lives Matter” sign at a vigil for victims of police brutality in my own town. The statement that “All Lives Matter” is an inherently dividing response that is not a show of solidarity in any form. No, it is a phrase that completely lacks empathy and regard to the innocent lives we are honoring and fighting for with this movement. It takes away from the plight of those who have lost sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers because of a system that truly does not value Black lives equally.
So, what I mean to say is that once Black lives matter too, all lives will matter. I wish I had the ignorance and privilege to say that all lives do matter. Of course, if I could truly believe that all lives mattered equally in this country, I would be overjoyed. But I am not ignorant or oblivious, so I stand behind the statement that Black lives matter. They have always mattered. They always will matter.
Now, I’ll move on to my own personal experiences with racial microaggressions and, frankly, macroaggressions (is that even a thing? whatever, you get the point). I’ve been told that racism isn’t a problem in my neighborhood, because we are a majority of relatively wealthy moderates without police brutality cases or a KKK chapter in our backyards. But, it’s important to note that racism is more insidious than can be consciously recognized or divided into regions of the country. For instance, when asked to name one student at my school who I knew had never said the n-word, I could not name one.
After further contemplation, I could confidently name three. I’ve been at parties, dancing in circles with girls yelling out the lyrics to rap songs and flaunting that word right in my face. “It’s just the lyrics,” they say. “It’s just a word.” “We invented it.” (No, I’m not making this one up.) I’ve heard the word used casually by non-Black “friends” of mine and turned the other cheek because I’ve been taught that if I react, I’m just another angry Black girl.
Notably, I don’t say the n-word. I probably say it less than the White people in my school. They see it as a way to be edgy. To flaunt to their friends that they don’t follow the rules of society, or that they’re somehow brave for using a racial slur with years of bloodshed and pain behind it. They still believe it is okay to use that word even after Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers stood over his corpse and said “fucking n***er.” (I can’t even type the word out fully. It feels wrong.)
Moreover, some microaggressions have been ingrained in my mind since I was a kid. People have called my hair “big and poofy” and told me that it looked better straight. At 12 years old, I wanted to get a perm and kill the feature that is most unique and beautiful about me (I should probably go thank my mom for refusing). And although this is probably too personal to divulge online and on social media, due to Eurocentric beauty standards and the people that I was surrounded with, as a child in elementary school, I once prayed to God, with tears running down my face - to turn me White and blonde with blue eyes, because I just wanted to be pretty.
That has all changed now. I see myself and my skin in an entirely different light. But I just know that there are more little Black girls out there just like me or darker than me, who have it worse and are suffering right now with their self-image. Once again I feel powerless because even if I could contact every single one of them and tell them they are beautiful, they wouldn’t believe me. That’s the world we live in.
Now, after everything I’ve written down on this Google Doc in the middle of the night, I’m struck with a pretty significant decision. The choice whether to accept the world the way it is, or to keep fighting until I see a change.
I remember in elementary school, we learned that the bystander who does nothing is just as bad as the bully. So I won’t accept racism. I won’t sit back and think “it is what it is.” I won’t accept that I’m just 16 and I can’t vote so I should just sit this out. I won’t stop talking about this even if it’s only going out to a few of my followers, and even though only one or two people have actually reached the end of this.
So I guess I’m done with this letter. I’m not submitting this for a grade so I won’t construct some grand conclusion and restate my thesis statement. Sorry if it made no sense. I just wanted an outlet to get my feelings out and share my thoughts on some issues.
Thank you if you’ve read till the end, it means a lot to me that you care about my voice.