This spoken word is written and performed by Dominique J. Hardy. It was originally performed during the Allyship for God’s People webinar hosted for over 400 youth and youth leaders of the Episcopal Church.
Please help us share Dominique's story of growing up black in America far and wide. Join us in being an agent of change in the world. For more about Dominique, visit her website:www.dominiquehardy.com.
Here is the written piece:
My Black Life by Dominique J. Hardy
My name is... Stereotype.
Judged and justified by the color of my skin,
I secretly wonder if we can ever be friends.
I'm this shade of black and brown.
I represent legal systems that have sought to keep us bound.
Biases...They plaster me...with their colors...
Are you red lining...the color of my skin...
Making access harder, because I have to fight systems from within?
Housing, Education, Criminal Justice, just to name a few. Unconscious bias shapes the worlds and systems around you.
Same offense, different life-sentence.
The criminal charge was being black from the start. Sentenced to... black maternity healthcare issues... Because the real issue was the color of my black skin.
Now, I'll admit, sometimes I feel like 1/3rd of property... Returning us back to our ugly, historical ancestry...
And I want to cry from within.
Can you hear my pain???
This pain...it makes me numb like novocaine.
Kick-knack paddy-whack, give a dog a bone;
'Cuz I'm constantly reminded that we have greater regard for a dog's life than my own.
The color of MY SKIN...
and all that comes with it:
Micro-aggressions, painful connections, pressured to be something that I am not.
White America; pain of my ancestors, and the lineage of inequality continues...
Housing inequality, Eurocentric curriculums that says to me... that my black history is an elective and is optional, just like I am...
Eurocentric curriculums, shaping young minds to perceive one side of the story,
Never telling them that we are all worthy. And that's privilege.
All kind of taglines, assumptions and guidelines to make me acceptable. Targeted by the police, trying to prove that I, too, am worthy of release... because he suspected that "something about me looked suspicious."
Racial profiling, never considering that I am falling... and I have a panic attack on the spot.
"How did you afford that car?" He asks.
"Where are you going? Where are you coming from?" "Why are you in this neighborhood?"
"This is a nice car---Are you sure this car wasn't stolen?" "Give me your license and registration NOW."
Then I'm reminded that I don’t have to license...to be here.
His gun is so close to his hip and even closer to my heart...
So yes, I'll confess...I was...antogonized by the suspicion in his eyes...from the start.
I held my breath, praying to survive...this encounter... This is the story of so many I know...
Stopped while black
Breathing while black,
Driving while black,
Eating while black...I'm constantly reminded until my veins crystalize BLUE because “I. Can't. Breathe”.
So no, I don't have the luxury to go about my day in silence. Not speaking up may cost me my very liveliness.
And it's the small things.
Like the fear of going to my white friends home...
Because I was told that her father hates black people and because of his biases, we could never get along.
But I'll tell you in nicer words you see;
To attempt to preserve parts of my own humanity.
Because he couldn't see me as human.
He saw my black skin as a threat to human society...
He saw me animalistic, and he felt it was his job to hold people that looked like me in captivity...
I heard what my friend said but I figured I'd go to her house instead.
Hiding and not free, I wanted to call my mom to get me...
Constantly on my mind, I had to keep looking over my shoulders to assure I'd be fine...
For this black skin I was born in.
I've had several experiences like these...
If not managed, that paranoia can bring a person to their knees...
Constantly looking over my shoulders...
Holding my purse far out so they don't think I stole it...
Having to look them in the eyes, hoping they'll remember that I, too, deserve to survive...
When driving through certain towns, I will admit, I take the long way. I know better than to travel through certain towns...
I seek to save my life so I take the extra time to avoid rounds...
of bullets ...to the heart ...and possibly to my skin...because the person who stopped me failed to realize and see that, I too, have a soul within...
911, what's your emergency...
The emergency is me.
Cold-blooded killer, no technology this time to affirm me.
So my blood screams out from the ground...
Seeking for someone to name the ugly truth so we may begin to reclaim our grounds...
And in your line of questioning, don't forget to question what culture has taught you about me.
No, I don't care for rap music; I prefer Country & R&B; Can you stop for a minute and not judge me?
Watermelons, cotton-pickin' and 'no', I'm not a great dancer.
But I dance anyway, to remind myself that I am freer than any of my ancestors.
No equal representation.
Code-switching for protection.
Perceived as a threat...Trying not to regret...
This black skin I was born in.
Guilty until proven innocent.
The law has been reversed, and it also reversed my innocence...
I had a fear of being judged so I live my life in tension...
Finally realizing that I can never convince someone else of my own significance.
Made in the image of God,
I am not "inherently more dangerous." I am not "more" violent.
You don't have to be fearful of me.
I am not an animal.
I did not come from a monkey.
And no, I cannot wash my black skin off.
Surprised I can speak with the eloquence you see??? These are just some of the things that plague me.
Worried for my brother, crying for my mother, missing my father as well... If you haven't gotten the picture at this point: It's all from a hateful wicked white supremacist system, can't you tell???
Why don't you remember?
You don't see the daily effects of how it affects me or my family members...
Don't you see?
That modern-day excuses for captivity.
I long to be heard.
but I'm told to be silent
After all, I'm "better off than they were."
Post-traumatic SLAVE disorder.
And I fight it every day.
I fight the internalized oppression that tells me to just throw up my hands, give up and walk away.
Even science shows I remember my ancestor's trauma in my body's cells...
that they are in prison cells, the criminal justice system is going to hell ...and I fight the thought that things will always be this way.
Like Rosa Parks, we've "parked" in our comfort.
We sit on different 'parts' of the bus. We live in two different realities...
When we stand up, they hang us.
Hang us with their foot on our necks...Get your foot off of my neck. A modern-day lynching, a reminder to subject.
Gasping for air...
When will we realize that: This is not an exaggeration... It's an egregious reality for those in countless locations...
Of this "great" USA.
The New Jim Crow,
I'm constantly reminded that many will never view my black life as a blessing...
Land of the free, home of the brave.
But when I choose to speak up, they tell me to sit down, shut up and behave.
It's better than the "Mass-ah" though.
He beat me with a sword of rings and lynching rope...
But is this emotional pain still worthy to be healed?
Are the wicked systems that kill still worthy to be revealed?
Torn down? Like my soul.
No Negros, dogs or Jews allowed. But when a black man is beat down,
dogs get better treatment than he does somehow.
We justify it.
We call out his criminal record...
From a rigged system that prepared him for this...
Anger is raging...
Hatred is taking...
No Negroes, dogs or Jews allowed...
That same history still separates us now.
You see, telling my story does not victimize me.
It is, in fact, the only way that we can really start to really be free.
Fear and assumptions keep us apart...
But now...there's a clarion, divine call now to reset and restart.
This will only happen through relationships. They serve as a mirror for our biases and flaws...
Together, we can tear down this wicked system of white supremacy that oppresses us all.
Hello. My name is... UNITY...
We don't all have to be the same to be free.
Your color can benefit my color so that all colors can be free... And your privilege does not have to be used to weaponize me.
Meaning well is not enough.
Systemic changes will forever change the trajectory of black births...
You don't have to feel guilt or shame; Instead, use your privilege to ensure my life, and the life of my ancestors, will not be in vain.
Stereotypes Annihilate Unity.
Are you understanding that you have a choice into whom you will be? How you will respond? What you will do?
If you will allow fear and silence as complicity to paralyze you???
So I ask you again: 'What Is Your Name?'
Remember, we all stand on the backs of someone's shoulders... Just make sure...You're Not. Standing. On. Our. Neck.
Dedicated to George Floyd and the grievous outrage over the officer who stood on his neck.
To all black and brown people, and my beloved ancestors, who never got the chance to see their potential bloom due to the egregious system of white supremacy on their necks.
Spoken Word written and performed by Dominique J. Hardy (dominiquehardy.com)
“If you have come here to help save me, you are wasting your time; but if you have come because you realize that your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
― Lilla Watson
"We can't change the hearts of wicked men, but we can stop them from lynching us, and I think that's important too..." -MLK.