As published by Lifein10Minutes *edited May 2020*
I’m gonna take off my black skin… Just for a day. Straighten my kinky curly hair. Delete the colloquialisms out of my vocabulary. Distance myself from the demand to be above reproach at all times. I’ll put away the sassiness my mama and my grandmother taught me so my inherent blackness wouldn’t leak through this newness. I found a way to turn me off for the day…
I couldn’t help but imagine all the fun things I could do. I was gonna get in my car and turn the volume on the radio all the way up. I wouldn’t worry about bumping too loudly, what station I listen to, if the N word played, I’d play sing along like I owned the song. And if it happen to be a country station, nobody would look like this music ain’t mine. Black people invented it but get side-eyed..
Then, I was gonna go to a boutique. I wouldn’t worry if the owners wanted me there or not. Or if someone was gonna follow me around as I browsed the collections. I wouldn’t fear picking up something small in case the owner thought I had slipped it in my pocket. I could swipe my credit card without being reminded of the price first.
At work, nobody would randomly bring up black movies or music assuming I knew who they were and that I was interested in any random fact they had learned about that black person. I wouldn’t have to dodge hands from hair or be expected to answer questions as if I was the black caucus representing all African Americans. I wouldn’t have to awkwardly navigate stereotypes about my family, my community, or where I’m from.
I wouldn’t have to change details on a resume to make sure it got reviewed.
If I raised my voice, people wouldn’t get scared.
A sad day wouldn’t be called an attitude.
Being mad wouldn’t cause the police to be called.
No one would ask me if I’m allowed to be here, or there, or at Starbucks, or in the dorm library, or at a country club, or any part of town where my “kind” don’t usually come around.
If I took my black skin off for a day … pressurized prejudices, subtle discriminations, systematic oppression … wouldn’t even cross my mind. I wouldn’t mind asking to speak to a manager if I didn’t get my way. I’d mind my own business while black bodies got pushed up against police cars for the same red light I ran earlier today. I wouldn’t mind asking black girls where she got all that booty from or black boys if the rumors are true.
And if someone dared try to call me racist, I’d remind them that I had a black roommate in college who I’d invite to my wedding cause I’m disgusted by white people too. Or that my cousin has kids by a black guy and he takes care of them. Or that black people should feel lucky to be in this country because Africa is tough!
I was gonna do it. Take off my black skin for a day to help me navigate white spaces, be less offended by the just-jokes and turn off my Ebonics so I wouldn’t be called uneducated. But if I take mine off, removing my skin as if it isn’t the very fabric of my soul, I just need to know, who’s willing to put mine on?
by Paula G.