Life Stories

How #BlackLivesMatter taught me to embrace myself

I didn’t belong so I just didn’t want to hear it.

Growing up, I had always been very much of an outsider. There were definitely times when I felt as if I just did not fit in. Sometimes I stood out,and I just didn’t quite feel like I belonged. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized my race played a part in this aspect of my upbringing.

Growing up, I had always been very much of an outsider. Click To Tweet

I never really felt like I fit in with the other black girls in my class, as few of these girls as there were. Going to a private Christian school did have its upsides, but diversity definitely wasn’t one of them. Either I didn’t feel welcome in their happy little clique or I still had this feeling in the back of my head that I just wasn’t one of them. So, because this part of me was one that definitely made me uncomfortable, I tried to push it away and act as if it didn’t matter.

The older I got, the harder I tried to close my eyes and ears to all the black voices and icons around me. It didn’t matter voice came in the form of was media representation or advice from my parents. I didn’t belong so I just didn’t want to hear it. Instead I told myself that my race was nothing more than a skin color and that anyone who tried to tell me otherwise was simply exaggerating.

I didn’t belong so I just didn’t want to hear it. Click To Tweet

It wasn’t until the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death began to surface that I really started listening to all of the incredible black voices around me. I started having so many realizations and discoveries about myself and the world around me. I realized that police brutality didn’t just happen to the people who looked “ghetto” or acted “dangerous.” Police brutality  could happen to anyone. Police brutality doesn’t care how old you are or whether or not you feel black enough. All it cares is that you are a person of color whose mere presence is enough reason to be killed.

The night of Trayvon Martin’s death, Twitter was literally set on fire by the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter! I was so engrossed in reading everyone’s comments. I read so many tweets that night. That connection that I had been lacking for so long, had finally been found. It was as if a switch had been flipped inside of me. I no longer needed Madea references or rap lyrics to feel black enough. All I needed to feel black enough was to be me.

That night, how dark or light skinned we were did not matter. Neither did where we went to school or how many J Cole concerts we had been to. Everyone was coming together to fight for the same cause. Everyone on the Twitter timeline was so unique, yet we all had one thing in common, our blackness.

That night, how dark or light skinned we were did not matter. Click To Tweet

As sad as Trayvon Martin’s death was, I loved seeing the community come together through such a simple hashtag. I never thought that some of the most thought provoking things I would ever read would be written on a website, under 140 characters.

Since the death of Trayvon Martin, I have consistently seen the #BlackLivesMatter community come together to uplift the names of black lives that were lost to police brutality, like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland. It is so incredible that the reason that these people have not been forgotten is because of an online community of young black people and allies.

The whole concept of blackness was so new to me at then. I knew what it meant to feel black but I didn’t know what it really meant to embrace one’s own blackness. Have I reached that point where I am completely confident in my identity and in who I am?  Absolutely not, but I can honestly say I have been loving every minute of the process to self-acceptance.

The whole concept of blackness was so new to me at then. Click To Tweet

Learning to love your blackness is about more than just the color of your skin. It’s going natural and embracing your afro in a world that only celebrates straight blonde hair. It’s celebrating black music artists when almost all the songs that top the charts are by white artists.

Not only do we as individuals learn to love ourselves, but also the incredible black community that we are apart of. There are so many incredible people who came before us and even more now who are making a difference.We live in a whitewashed society that is constantly bringing bringing voices of color down. So seeing so many out there who look like you succeeding is so inspiring.

Learning to accept and love my blackness has really helped me learn a lot about myself. Knowing that I am part of a community that is all about loving the one part of us that the world wants us to hate is an incredible feeling. Even though I’m not where I want to be yet, my race is something I am trying to accept, rather than trying to ignore. Like activist Deray McKesson said, “I love my blackness and yours.”

By Livi Burke

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