On Being Oblivious

I was always my mother’s child. Still am. Allow me to elaborate. My mother was and still is one of the most militant black women on the planet. She taught us that our activism was to be achieved through knowledge. So we, my siblings and I, have always been very conscious people. And while I grew up in a much more integrated society than they did (they are slightly older), I was still aware of the disparities that have existed. My mother’s greatest gift to us, was teaching us that our brains work, and no amount of scientific studies or media coverage was going to convince us that we were inferior. And we never believed it. And people who wanted us to believe knew we didn’t believe it and hated us for it. The best way to convince someone of their inferiority is to pretend that you don’t see them. My city is trending upward right now. And whenever I walk into a new business or restaurant or gentrified part of town, I feel it. I can see it on people’s faces and in their behavior. I ignore the outright animosity, but what I can’t ignore is the subtle bias. The prejudice that creeps in on the faces of people who do not even acknowledge my presence. That more than anything says that “you don’t belong here.” That more than anything tries its honest best to render me less than human. It tries to suppress me into oblivion. I didn’t notice it before because I was never taught to believe that I was lower than anybody. I was taught that, yes I am black, but that I am also human. In a country where race matters too damn much, I’ve always been oblivious to the fact that people deny me access to “open” places by refusing to acknowledge my presence or my existence. Now I know why people protest. Why they march. And why they scream loudly into the deafening silence of complete and total ambivalence. If you want to be thought human, as someone who cares about others regardless of their race then don’t pretend that they are not there and that they do not suffer. It is the worst offense to be oblivious to another human being, whether she’s marching down the highway or whether she just wants a cup of coffee from a cafe in a trendy new neighborhood. 

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