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Perception of Blackness

Speaking only for myself, I want to express what it has been for me to be black in America.

As far back as I can remember, whether on TV or in real life, racism existed. I’m not sure what to think when people say black people can’t be racists, because unfortunately, I grew up with a dad who talked against other races. He didn’t care most for white people and lectured us many times about slavery and oppression brought on by, “the white man”. My dad was born and raised on the dirt roads and woods of Holt, Alabama, the deep south. He was one of 13 children. His mother died when he was only thirteen years old and he was put out to fend for himself soon after. I, however, did not take on his beliefs but decided to love or like people according to who they are and how they treat me.

Fortunately, my other five siblings and my mom, are not racist either. Both my brothers dated outside of our race, with my late oldest brother and his wife giving life to beautiful biracial children. But let me go back. While in high school, my best friends included two of the funniest, kindest white kids I ever met, Micah House and (the late), Sherry Geer Delacruz. Although Sherry is gone, I still love both of them with all my heart thirty-plus years later. As a young adult, I became a nurse and there was no room for bias. I treated all my patients and their families with dignity and respect.

When I had children of my own, I tried to teach them not to see color when they were young. But I knew, the older they got, I needed to teach them to love their Blackness. It was important for them to love themselves in a world where they would be treated differently. When social media first put a spotlight on police shootings of an unarmed black man, my kids were at the end of high school. So consumed with school, prom, graduation, and family hardships, sadly, we heard it but didn’t focus on it. When the murder of Trayvon Martin was caught on video and his murderer was set free, my kids were angry and in tears. We had to sit down and talk about what that meant for them as teens going into young adulthood.

Before they were old enough to drive we taught them what to do if they were ever pulled over by the police. Unfortunately, a few years later, my nephew, son, and niece were pulled over no more than a block from my sister’s house. My nephew and niece were visiting from Colorado and he was unfamiliar with the narrow stretch of road he was on. They were so scared, my niece was in tears but thank God, they knew to keep their hands where they could see them, said yes sir and no sir, follow instructions and make no sudden moves. When we arrived on the scene, the cops were running the kids’ social security numbers over and over again. After being asked who we were, we were told to remain in our vehicle. A minute later we were surrounded by three loads of police cars. They were searching for something to charge one of the kids with but they were clean. Long story short, they ticketed them and after detaining us all at the scene for over an hour, and being very rude, aggressive, and unprofessional, they let them go.

Needless to say, we had to have a deeper conversation. They were terrified, angry, and confused as to why they were so mistreated by those who were supposed to protect and serve. Their first time being stopped by the police and they were racially profiled, treated like criminals, and disrespected. To this day, my son does not like driving anywhere. I recall having a conversation with him about the murder of George Floyd and he said, “They’re just going to keep getting away with it.” So sad.

For that reason alone, being black in America is difficult at times for me. But you can either hide away or live unapologetically in your truth. I choose the latter!

God is such a huge part of my life. I think I would live in total fear if it weren’t for my faith in the Lord. We know faith without works is void. I work every day to be a better version of the person I was yesterday. Life as a black businesswoman is more accepted today than in 2008 when I started my journey with Val’s Gifts of Warmth. I’m not saying that systemic racism is gone or being black in America is easy but I will say that with our culture taking a front seat in today’s society, it has gotten easier to lift our heads and show the world our talents, achievements, and success. I plan to continue to succeed and make my mark on this world as a black woman in America. Not for me but for my children, grandchildren, and future generations.

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Valerie Collins
Valerie Collinshttps://mypoeticlifebook.wordpress.com/
Valerie Collins was born in Tucson, Az, the last of six children. She has loved writing since a child but decided to pursue a career in Orthopedic nursing. Shortly after her marriage and birth of her first child at the age of 22, she was diagnosed with the chronic pain disease, Fibromyalgia, its subsequent conditions, illnesses, and syndromes. Once the disease disabled her in 2001, she revisited her passion for writing poetry and short stories and has accumulated over 100 poems and spoken word pieces over the years. She became a member of the International Society of poets in 2002 and The International Who's Who in Poetry in 2006. She currently is a member of Realistic Poetry International, Who's Who Among American Business Women, and Women of Facebook Create. Her accolades include 2005 Poet of the Year. She was awarded both the Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry and the Official Commemorative Poetry Ambassador Medal while serving as a Poetry Ambassador associate in 2007. She wrote a play entitled “Fix Me Jesus” in 2012 for Alabama 1st COGIC State AIM Youth Convention Competition drama category which was awarded second place. Currently, she is in rehearsals for her second stage play for the local playwright, Shawna D. Moore which will be on stage in August 2019. She is in the process of compiling a two-volume poetry book entitled My Poetic Life: A Memoir of Love and a book detailing her life with Fibromyalgia, entitled Behind the Walls of Silence. In July 2018, she created her first blog site My Poetic Life (The Book) as @vfurrmstheblogger to act as a launch for both books and it has taken on a life of its own. She also owns a small crochet business, Val's Gifts of Warmth, where she sells her handmade crochet items.

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3 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Dear Ms. Valerie Collins, thanks a million for sharing with us your superlative analytical skills so passionately woven into a tapestry of humanity, love, compassion, and above all, respecting every culture, cast, creed, and colour!

    It takes a lot of courage to touch upon a subject as sensitive as racism, especially when the so-called ‘target’ in modern-day society dares present her views.

    Once again, thank you for your bold attempt to bring compassion to your own family first, before making the readers put their thinking caps on!

    Warm regards, with a prayer for all
    BM

  2. Just amazing as my post of today is on the magical coloring of business.

    As a man brought up on the principle of “no white or black human is better than the other except in faith and how one behaves”.
    This is not an issue in our part of the wrold.

    It used to be an issue centuries ago. A black poet then wrote a poem in which he said “those people who mock my black color do not realize that without the blackness of the night they would have never enjoyed the dawn”.

    I appreciate you Valerie and respect the faith you have. If I were discriminating on color then I would have never read your post and benefitted from it apart from commenting on it.

  3. Racism isn’t limited to Caucasians of course. Anyone can be a racist no matter their own race, or economic status. It is found in the ranks of cops, teachers, religious leaders, and of course amoung parents. I would like to think that the matter is better than it has been in the past, though there are events that sometimes challenge that hope. Will racial bias (or other biases) ever totally go away? Knowing what I know about the human species I found it unlikely. Of course we must continue to work to improve the situation on all fronts.

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