Taking off the Mask


Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 9.56.08 PMIt’s literally been years since I’ve written a blog post.  I’ve been paralyzed since February 26, 2012.  Not physically, but mentally.  That is the day my world was rocked as a parent of black boys.  I hadn’t really thought about my kids as black children until that moment.  I just saw them as the kiddos who I had to remind to clean their room, pick up their toys, put on deodorant, brush their teeth…you know…the regular things us moms have to say millions of times while raising our regular children.  I had simply seen them as those children who somehow had an appetite that sent me to the grocery store and Costco multiple times per week….those beautiful kids who were the cause of my extra 30 pounds, but who made me laugh, gave me wet kisses on the cheek and loved me unconditionally despite my flaws.

However, that day, I saw them as black boys.  Boys who one day may not be seen as the sweet boys they are, but given certain circumstances, could be seen as a threat simply because they are black.  Trayvon Martin’s killing was the day I was jolted out of my white, suburban, homeschooling, christian, military, middle class haze and thrusted into the reality that my kids are black!  My boys are black.

I was overcome by the gravity of what raising black boys and girls meant.  I was forced to think about how being black has impacted my life and how being black will impact their life.  I thought about how all of my life I have been conditioned to “behave.”  That basically means, keep white people comfortable.  Essentially, I have been conditioned all of my life to wear the mask that Paul Laurence Dunbar so eloquently described in the poem he pinned in 1896.

Growing up, I was taught through media, childhood interactions in my white neighborhood and school, corporate america, and rejection in both black and white environments, that what I am naturally (tight afro textured hair, my dark skin, and anything else ethnic) is offensive, seen as unprofessional, not as valuable and undesirable to some people consciously and subconsciously.   The subconscious bias has been the most dangerous of them all.  This is a “knowing” that has been very difficult to deal with throughout my life and is always on my mind in every space I’m in.  This is a “knowing” that I don’t want my kids to have, but I realize I can’t protect them from it.

The mental anguish, sadness and fear I felt after every shooting, vilification of the black body involved, and acquittal of the police or general citizen involved in these situations has tormented me and shook my faith as I imagined my black sons and daughters in these scenarios which I know are possible.

When my “friends” chirped back Police Lives Matter in response to people saying Black Lives Matter or simply continued as if things were “business as usual” was both disappointing and eye opening.  The silence was the most defining sound of all. I wondered if it were my kids in the same scenario, would they be so quick to respond or be silent in the same way.

I had to retreat and disengage from relationships in my world where I felt like I had to wear the mask.  I left spaces that welcomed the military spouse, homeschooling, suburban, christian, middle class Alicia, but not the black Alicia. I began to realize that not sharing my perspective to avoid rejection or keep people comfortable was a disservice to myself and those around me.  I could no longer fake like I was OK and I couldn’t simply “behave” anymore.

So, what now?

  1.  I’ve spent the last year trying to find spaces where diversity exists and all of who I am; even the black Alicia, is embraced and welcome.
  2. I am trying to have the courage to say I AM NOT OK! I am hurting.  I am afraid and upset that the same evil based on race my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents lived with is one my children and their children will have to face.  I’m afraid my boys will be black in the wrong place at the wrong time…maybe even in their own community.  I’m afraid for my girls as well.
  3. I am learning to find my voice and to share it as a person of color in spaces with people who care and have a different American experience than I do.
  4. Slowly but surely, I am learning to be less of a people pleaser and to be honest.
  5. I am reconnecting with God again and asking Him to help me heal so I can be the change I want to see…even if it’s in small ways.
  6. I am learning to invite the black Alicia to the relationships in my life this time.
  7. I am building up the courage to reengage with relationships I left to share my honest perspective and be open to a conversation across a table and not a computer screen.
  8. Most of all, I am trying to take off the mask no matter what.  The weight of it is too heavy for me to carry any longer.

Photo Credit:  izquotes.com

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One response to “Taking off the Mask

  1. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. I have two black teenager brothers and have had many difficult conversations with my white mother. Like you, she has recently had to wrestle with her sons not just being her sons, but her black sons.

    These conversations are worthy ones to have, even though engaging them is not comfortable.

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