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The Burden of The Black Voice

by Paulyn Annor

Edited by Sarah Desouza

I have been screaming and talking longer than a week. Longer than a month. Longer than your black squares were up and your 24-hour long reposts lasted. The first time I started screaming — Trayvon had been murdered for wearing a black hoodie and having a pack of Skittles. I can’t forget Trayvon because it was him that made me aware that for Black people in America, our skin is the weapon they always claim to see.

As a Ghanaian immigrant, this reckoning made me realize that this “land of the free,” land of supposed opportunity and greatness was just a land of oppression that was built to thrive on the subjugation and exploitation of Black lives. And here have been a few stories about Black men, women, and children dying at the hands of police that have been galvanizing enough to draw the attention span of the non-Black people of this nation.

Over the past few months, it seems as though this nation has finally put a spotlight that lasts more than a week on the despicable violence that Black people face every single day in this country. Within the first week of George Floyd’s death, there was an overload of graphic images of his death. It was extremely difficult to watch the news and scroll through Instagram without seeing a video of his neck under the knee of Derek Chauvin, without hearing him cry out for his mother, without witnessing life leave his young body.

Protests have erupted in major cities across not only the nation but across the world. It seems as though those who have been in slumber for over four hundred years are finally waking up. As weeks have gone by, police brutality and systemic oppression are not the only hot topics. Within the Black community, conversations about colorism, gender violence, transphobia, homophobia, and the blatant disrespect and neglect of Black womxn have had polarizing and devastating impacts on those who have been marginalized in our communities.

But honestly I am so damn tired. These past weeks I’ve been scared and raging because I have Black men and boys in my life who I care so much about. I struggle with the fact that every time I open Instagram, I find stories of Black womxn whose pain and suffering have been made the butt of tasteless jokes. I want to rest badly but I feel like I can’t because I don’t think I’m doing enough. Voicing my frustration on social media, educating and answering the questions of my Ghanaian parents, screaming at the television when I see those who swore to protect us take lives like it’s nothing, have all worn me down. This outpouring of rage, pain, despair, fear, exhaustion and information shared by Black people has revealed something to me — the burden of the Black voice.

It is so difficult to maintain sanity when you are constantly seeing videos of lives, dreams, hopes being snuffed out. Having to wash, rinse and repeat your pain and anger. Black people have been forced to bear so many burdens, but we have been tasked to endure an additional burden in the current years: educating non-Black POC and white people of Black pain, how to combat anti-Blackness and how to be actively anti-racist. As Black people, it is not our duty or obligation to constantly provide information about how to unlearn biases and be anti-racist to non-Black POC and white people. It is also not our responsibility to thank others for seeing and recognizing our humanity.

I recently found myself thanking non-Black people who messaged me checking in or telling me how sorry they were. Why do I feel the need to thank people for realizing and acknowledging that as a young Black woman, I go through so much pain? Why do I need to coddle people and make them feel good for their “I’m sorry”s and “I can’t imagine what you’re going through”s? I do not need to validate other people’s feelings when my emotions, my struggles, my pain have been invalidated for years.

When I feel as though I’m not doing enough, I now remind myself that I am not obligated to continue to educate people and keep screaming. It’s not an additional burden that I must carry and I can slow down.

It is not my job to educate non-Black POC and white people about their anti-Blackness, about their privilege, and about their racism. It is not my responsibility to consistently educate Black men about the ways that they harm Black womxn. I do not have to provide information on how colorism is a very real problem that needs to be addressed not only within Black communities, but all communities of color. We are in the middle of a pandemic, which is already taxing in itself.

To have to carry the burdens of police brutality, housing discrimination, hiring discrimination, mass incarceration, colorism, gender violence, transphobia, homophobia, etc. are enough to tear at anyone’s mental stability. It is okay to take a break from social media. It is okay to tell people “I need a break from talking and educating you.” It is okay to cry and yell and scream. It is okay to sit in silence for a bit and take care of yourself emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. It is okay to prioritize you.

Being alive is enough of a victory. Experiencing happiness, Black joy, and having moments of relief are enough of a victory. Continuing to be yourself is enough of a victory. Saying “I am enough” regardless of what society tells you is enough of a win.

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