I cried all through the movie ‘The Hate U Give’. I did not when I read the book. But as I watched the movie, as I felt the pains become palpable, a huge lump formed in my throat that just wouldn’t go down because I knew what it felt like to be black. I knew what it felt like to keep my hands visible whenever the blue and white cars drove by. I knew what it felt like for white people to clutch their bags tighter when I passed by them. I knew what it felt like to be stared at warily whenever I was in a predominantly white neighborhood. I knew what it felt like to avoid hoodies and burly jackets that could ‘conceal’ weapons. I knew what it felt like to be black.
But what I didn’t know was what it felt like to be black everyday of my life. I grew up and still live in the most populous black nation on earth. In Nigeria, I’m just Oyinkan. Dark skinned, Christian , Yoruba Oyinkan. Never Black Oyinkan or African Oyinkan. Just plain boring Oyinkan. The first time I ever stepped out of my country was when I was twenty years old and it was on a visit to the US. That was the first time I knew what it felt like to be black. What it felt like to be treated differently, to be looked at differently. To be regarded differently.
I said earlier that I didn’t know what it felt like to be black everyday of my life. The truth is I still don’t know. I experience being black for a couple of months a year and then I have my Nigeria to come back to. I have the option of coming back home where I am judged for a lot of things and for being a lot of things but none, the color of my beautiful brown skin.
My heart breaks for those who share my color and whose home is that place of judgement. It breaks for everyone who is judged for something they didn’t choose and can’t change. For everyone who ever has to meet stumbling blocks because they’re black, because they’re female, because they’re differently abled, physically or mentally or because their sexual orientation is different. For everyone who has a privilege… class privilege, white privilege, choice privilege, gender privilege… I want you to know that you are not made less by speaking out more for those without that privilege.
You are not less of a man if you speak out for feminism. You are not less white if you speak out against racism. You are not less straight if you speak out homophobia. You are not less of an able bodied person if you speak out for inclusive infrastructure for differently abled persons. You are still you, with a serving of humanity on top.
POSTSCRIPT: I chose that title because I want you to be outraged. Not at me or at my post. But at all those things you can change. All those things that continue to exist because you keep quiet. Nobody can make you quiet unless you choose to remain silent.
POST POSTSCRIPT: Post originally written in October, 2018.