To be young, gifted, and black.

Photo-on-24-10-14-at-09.34Maynard Hearns,
Santa Cruz, CA.

The black story in america is very simple: we were slaves, and then we weren’t. We were never given freedom, or equality. When we begged for it, we were lied to. When we Marched on Washington and pleaded our case, we were shot in the back of the head. When we sang for it, we were passed over it for those who could sing it whiter. When we wrote about it, we were left out of the american canon. When we exhibited moral character and “married up” we were called rapists. When we created shows that displayed to our intelligence without compromising our reality, we were sneered out in editorials.
When we cultivate our own beauty, we are ignored, or worse: “exoticized.”

When we dare to like ourselves and not be subservient out of reflex, we are shot in the walmarts, in the streets, and our killers are rewarded with a paid vacation.

Success for blacks in america comes with punishment. Nothing is more dangerous than to be unapologetically self-loving, yet able to go toe-to-toe with your white peers. They have magazines telling them they’re beautiful, stories saying they’re courageous, and smart, and funny, and thoughtful. They have a culture that tells them that they are, in a word, perfectible. To be black in america is to be faced with the notion that you are naturally imperfect.
And to succeed while black in america is to succeed in spite of your society, in spite of your nation–not because of it.

 

To be young, gifted, and black.

Photo-on-24-10-14-at-09.34Maynard Hearns,
Santa Cruz, CA.

The black story in america is very simple: we were slaves, and then we weren’t. We were never given freedom, or equality. When we begged for it, we were lied to. When we Marched on Washington and pleaded our case, we were shot in the back of the head. When we sang for it, we were passed over it for those who could sing it whiter. When we wrote about it, we were left out of the american canon. When we exhibited moral character and “married up” we were called rapists. When we created shows that displayed to our intelligence without compromising our reality, we were sneered out in editorials.
When we cultivate our own beauty, we are ignored, or worse: “exoticized.”

When we dare to like ourselves and not be subservient out of reflex, we are shot in the walmarts, in the streets, and our killers are rewarded with a paid vacation.

Success for blacks in america comes with punishment. Nothing is more dangerous than to be unapologetically self-loving, yet able to go toe-to-toe with your white peers. They have magazines telling them they’re beautiful, stories saying they’re courageous, and smart, and funny, and thoughtful. They have a culture that tells them that they are, in a word, perfectible. To be black in america is to be faced with the notion that you are naturally imperfect.
And to succeed while black in america is to succeed in spite of your society, in spite of your nation–not because of it.

To be young, gifted, and black.

Photo-on-24-10-14-at-09.34Maynard Hearns,
Santa Cruz, CA.

The black story in america is very simple: we were slaves, and then we weren’t. We were never given freedom, or equality. When we begged for it, we were lied to. When we Marched on Washington and pleaded our case, we were shot in the back of the head. When we sang for it, we were passed over it for those who could sing it whiter. When we wrote about it, we were left out of the american canon. When we exhibited moral character and “married up” we were called rapists. When we created shows that displayed to our intelligence without compromising our reality, we were sneered out in editorials.
When we cultivate our own beauty, we are ignored, or worse: “exoticized.”

When we dare to like ourselves and not be subservient out of reflex, we are shot in the walmarts, in the streets, and our killers are rewarded with a paid vacation.

Success for blacks in america comes with punishment. Nothing is more dangerous than to be unapologetically self-loving, yet able to go toe-to-toe with your white peers. They have magazines telling them they’re beautiful, stories saying they’re courageous, and smart, and funny, and thoughtful. They have a culture that tells them that they are, in a word, perfectible. To be black in america is to be faced with the notion that you are naturally imperfect.
And to succeed while black in america is to succeed in spite of your society, in spite of your nation–not because of it.

Tweets by Michele Norris