It’s hard to believe it is 2017 and the news media reporting “unarmed Black _______ shot by _________ Department police officer who mistook ____________ for a gun. Fired ____________ shots and killed suspect" has become a common headline. It truly is Charlotte Atbosi’s Mad Libs: Black Death Edition

I am an advocate for equality of all, but my main focus is on black social and economic equality. I am black before anything else, I will always love and fight for my Blackness first. On days like today, when I wake up to another hashtag, another life lost, another person taken from their family too soon, it is hard for my anxiety to not take away all my fight and make me want to disappear from this world.

The last couple weeks have been a reminder that nothing, nowhere, and no one can guaranty black people’s safety in America. There is no stance that my Blackness can take that will be seen as non-threatening. Whether we march, kneel, sit down, stand up, stay silent, shout, put our hands up, or fists up –it's seen as threatening.  As someone who’s mental health varies, it can be hard to remain optimistic and positive when social media is littered with videos of a person being gunned down by someone who will never have to take accountability for their murder.

I’ve lived almost 26 years in a society that told me in order to not be seen as a “nigger”, I would need to shape, mold, and bend myself to meet Eurocentric standards of success and beauty; get an education, speak properly, get a corporate job, straighten your hair, don't have an opinion, etc. And for a long time, this propaganda worked. I busted my ass to separate myself from any shred of Blackness.

It first started in my younger years when I felt denied my Blackness by other Black kids who made fun of my “white” accent. On the other side, I had my white schoolmates “complimenting” me on how I wasn’t like “those other black people.” So young me, where do I go, towards the “compliments”, of course. If I knew then what I know now, I would have smacked all those kids for being ignorant assholes but you live and you learn.

In school, there wasn't a substantial mention of Black people as anything more than chattel when slavery and the Civil War section came around in history or during Black History month when we learned about the same three people; George Washington Carver the Peanut Wizard, Martin Luther King, Jr. the Peaceful Martyr, and Eli Whitney with his dusty ass cotton gin (who come to find out is actually white). These were my only known contributions from my race from kindergarten to high school. Three people compared to the explorer Christopher Columbus, the humanitarian Abraham Lincoln, George 'Ain't Neva Lied' Washington, and countless other heroic, breathtaking, fascinating white men. They were thoroughly bragged and boasted about in my history lessons. It was all true, right? A school wouldn't lie to a young developing child to push a hidden agenda, right? *rolls eyes back to 1864*

On top of that, I had news media constantly talking about Black on Black crime and the War on Drugs with our men, women, and babies used as the poster children of America's detriment. Riots in Los Angeles, crack babies in incubators, and bodies in the streets after a gang shootout. Fear of Black people pumped out daily as stories of rampant drug use and violence were the main topics. That was news in the mid-90's. Then on the other side of the media, in entertainment, black people on television were painted as one-dimensional, comical token sidekicks to multifaceted, white main characters, or criminals.

I was big into TV and school growing up, and I wanted to know everything while soaking up all information like a sponge. I was surrounded by all these images in entertainment, the news, and school, yet none of them represented me or my family so I thought we were different. We were "good black people". We didn't do drugs or know gang members and we had huge, strong personalities, unlikely to be side kick to anyone. My parents were well-educated, my sister was well-educated, and I was next in line, but I didn't see my family or myself anywhere except at home. 

I'll admit, in my younger years, I harbored fear of Black people based on what I'd seen, and I wanted to not be seen or associated with Blackness as I knew it. Especially after I was told I wasn't "black enough" by black people. I was convinced that, although I am dark skinned, it meant nothing more than a skin tone; a deep tan.

This kind of mental segregation went on from about 6th grade until my first semester of university. Throughout those years, I was the epitome of perceived whiteness. Back then emo/punk was the "look", so I was colored fringe bang, limp straight black hair, band tees, grungy jeans, band lyrics everywhere, great diction, typing “ily” in my MySpace bulletins, not eating so I could fit perfectly into my size 3 skinnies. Giiiirl, I was whiter than the white kids. Don't get me wrong, these were my genuine interests as well, yet I was made to feel like when I expressed my interests I was overstepping or "not allowed" to like those things by both Black and white classmates.

In social groups, I noticed certain girls, either white or a white passing person of color, would try to make me seem as though I was problematic in anything that I did. I couldn’t sneeze without a pale face tripping out like I had Ebola.

A natural extrovert, I needed somewhere to express myself, have a social space, and sense of belonging, so I lived my life online through MySpace, then in later years by venting on Tumblr. The internet was the only place I didn’t feel invisible or unwanted.  I had a couple of friends in real life who were cool, but I couldn’t connect after having felt so out of place and unwanted for all that time. I was also deeply depressed, but I didn’t know how to bring that subject up again because I was already coming home to all the “hey, white girl” jokes from my family. At that time depression was a “white” thing and I didn’t want the extra critique. To be honest, until recently, I was completely shut down and shut off emotionally to everyone.

It wasn’t until university that I started meeting more black people who didn’t fit or believe in the monolithic Blackness. They shared similar stories and experiences with me, and I finally felt like I had my space in the social world. Like I wasn’t this disgrace to my Blackness for not falling into the stereotype. I found comfort in my Blackness. Yes, I have alternative interests but those will never take away from my Blackness.

When I speak to Blackness now, it’s more than skin; its culture, its experience, and that song and dance only we know how to move to.

That is when I learned about overt and covert racism. Growing up, no one was overtly yelling racial slurs at me, but it didn’t mean that they weren’t covertly dismissing my existence based on societal implemented ideas of me and my race due to media, education, and other social norms. Regardless of what I did, I was an outlier, an anomaly from this violence, savage race and at any moment I would fall into that violent, savage behavior. Hence, the “constantly problematic Pat”.

I recently discovered, a lot of my white peers' parents had never even interacted with a Black person until their adulthood. That's people in their 40's-60's who never knew only of Black people but never knew a Black person. That is crazy to even fathom. All they have heard were these horrific tales that they then pass on to their children and the children apply it how their little minds interpret it. There's the media and school reinforcing these skewed ideas perpetuating the miseducation.

On my journey to consciousness, I unlearned my own problematic and divisive behaviors that I displayed by separating myself as some “superior” Black because I talked more “white” and colorism (light skin vs dark skin). I also learned how beautiful Black unity is. I went to a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) but the Black presence and involvement on campus and in organizations was unmatched. We were the minority, but we made sure we were ever present and visible in everything. We held influential positions in every organization and even started our own several of our own.

My experience with feeling out of place ended early on in my life because I made amazing friends and now understand those experiences and feelings, but it doesn’t mean I no longer experience those micro aggressions in my adult life. After I left the magical land of college, I faced the same struggles from middle and high school in the workplace. I have to be careful how I appear so not to be misconstrued. Always tethering the fine line.

As of this year, I stopped giving a f**k. I wear head wraps to work, braids, twists, faux locs, Ankara styles, I don’t care. I am Black and proud as hell. This my culture. Call HR if you want to, I’ll sue you. I'll have EEOC in the biiih.

I was lucky. I was saved from my Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome but not every Black person gains the knowledge of our history. I know there were over hundreds of scientists and inventors that contributed to American history but may never receive recognition in a history textbook. There are Black people who believe that our ancestors never contributed more than violence and destruction to America's history. There are still kids, teens, and adults like me out there who feel isolated and problematic for doing what society said to appeal to the Status Quo or for doing what they enjoy because it's not "Black" enough.

That’s what being Black in America is; fighting, working, breaking your back, giving every drop of blood, sweat, and tears only to get denied at the finish line because you are still Black. That is why you'll see celebrities like Lil Kim altering their appearance to a more European look through skin bleaching and cosmetic surgery. She has burst under the pressure of living in a society that does not accept or appreciate her achievements and accomplishments because of her skin color and culture. The level of self hatred that grows from constant rejection can lead a person to the extreme to be accepted.

No matter how hard we work, we can never erase our melanin. We don’t want to. We want to change the narrative that America has forced upon our race and culture. We want the right to live in safety and equality.

Before you rush to silence and ridicule Black people for our activism. Take time to understand the constant mind games we are subject to in order to survive in this country. Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else is taken," but for Black people it's not that easy. Being our true selves is seen as insolence and threatening because of the centuries of propaganda circulated against us.