This I Believe

Jordan - Fort Worth, Texas
Entered on April 1, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe that one day we –including me– will be visible.

“I have been black all my life.” Coined by a congressman, is how I describe my and our invisibility.

I believe growing up as the only black female in my all white middle and high school in a small Texas town shaped forever and always the way I will see the world. Some may ask why I am not bitter after all the injustice I have seen in my life. But I see bitterness as an accessory or a necklace that fits the outfit of invisibility.

Ralph Ellison wrote the book Invisible Man in 1950 to explain the invisibility that blacks in America felt at that time. Many see this book as a relic of the past.

I have heard countless times in my life time that racism is dead in the United States. That slavery is a thing of the past that must be forgotten. That Ellison’s book must be “taken and understood in the time that it was written.” But I believe that slavery, bigotry, and invisibility are not relics of the past to be forgotten.

I have had whites touch my skin and hair as if to touch a new invention all seen for the first time. I have been refused service or simply ignored while next in line at countless restaurants and stores. I have had people ask me if I live in a barn or a ghetto. I have been accused of stealing because someone “knows that black people steal.” I have been told that I can not be associated with because of my pigmentation. I have had people tell me that they will pray for me because my skin color is the result of a curse that God cast on Abraham’s sons. I have been with my father, a college professor, who was stopped on a college campus for trespassing though he was going to his office. When complaining to the police department, he was told “the officer has some biases against minorities.” But I believe that I am not the only person that has experienced these things.

All of my life, though I am only 19 years old, I have been defined by the invisibility that comes from the pigmentation of my skin. I’m not sure when or where these injustices faced by blacks’ everyday became invisible or acceptable. I will never understand why some people feel that these injustices are acceptable, or why everyone in a race has to be lumped together as though we are all the same.

As the world looked on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, many blacks thought that what has been invisible would suddenly be visible. But for some reason that invisibility seems to have become visible for a very short period of time.

I believe that I am an individual that happens to be black. But it seems as I go through life being black continues to define me. So I continue to try to do everything I can to make sure I break the mold of what I should be. I refuse to let it define me. I try to make sure to educate as many people as I can that what they think is invisible is in fact a visible part of so many blacks’ lives.

I have been black all my life, and I will continue to be black. But I refuse to let the invisible parts of being black define me. I believe that one day for all blacks everything will be visible for everyone to see, and they can be visible individuals as well.