An illustration of arms of people of different races reaching out

When I step out into the world
Some people see me as “less than”
My value, diminished
My worth, second rate
My identity, crushed and pressed
Into every stereotype of what it means to
Be Black in America

When I walk into a store, I am often followed
Not because I have done anything wrong
Heaven knows momma taught me better
But simply because my mere existence is deemed questionable

I need you to know that on the totem pole of beauty in America
Black women often come in last place
I’ve heard things like, “You’re pretty for a Black girl.”
Or “I don’t date Black girls. But you’re mixed, so you’re fine.”
These things can be hard to shake

I need you to know that it breaks my heart
At the thought of someone being made uncomfortable
By the mere presence of my father, my brother or a man who looks like them
Zips purse, locks door, walks a little faster
Black man in the neighborhood? He must be up to something

I need you to know that in office cultures
My ideas have often been questioned
My opinions, challenged
Although this could be commonplace
It can often leave me wondering
“Is this about my race?”
These things can easily break my spirit

I need you to know that I am not angry with you.
Just because you don’t look like me,
Does not make you my enemy
I’m not asking for pity.
Nor trying to place blame.
I don’t want you to feel bad for me for being Black
Or for you to carry the weight of this nation’s history,
As reprehensible as some parts may be

I want your friendship.
I want your dialogue,
Your willingness to ask questions,
Your willingness to lovingly call out bias in yourself and in others
Your willingness to listen, to truly listen
To an experience that is completely and utterly different from your own.

I want, I need you to walk arm in arm
With me as my brother, my sister
Black, brown, white, every background, every color
Knowing that what separates us is minimal in comparison to what unites us

What I need you to know is there’s fear on both sides
Fear of asking the “wrong” questions,
Fear of being perceived as racist or wrong
Fear of being unheard and misunderstood
Fear of being another statistic, another Black body on the news
Fear of things never changing
What I need you to know is that perfect love casts out fear

What I need you to know is that sometimes silence feels like violence
But when you speak, when you engage in conversation with me
You bring healing to my wounds
What I need you to know that you may get tired of having to explain yourself,
but when you speak, when you choose to engage in this conversation with me
You stir up my hope for better days

And for my Black brothers and sisters,
I am so sorry
For the grief you feel,
Every time someone looks like you is wrongfully killed
Knowing that it could have been you
For the pain you bear, from generations past
I need you to know that there is healing here
In the Father’s arms, He makes everything new

Your melanin skin
Is not something to be ashamed of
From kings and queens
To slaves on ships
To three-fifths of a human being
To presidents, CEO’s, modern-day princesses, the greatest-of-all-times
We are resilience defined
I need you to know anything that says
We are “less than” is a lie

Healing happens in community
Healing happens in hard conversations
So let’s get comfortable being uncomfortable together
Together, let’s come to the table again

What I need you to know that there is hope

Illustration via Caroline Williams

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