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This Is Being Black in America

Last night, as I prepared to go to bed, I happened upon the video everyone was sharing. It was the video of Tatiana Rose, a teenager who had thrown a pool party at the community pool, in the McKinney, Texas, suburb where she lived. Some of the guests lived in the neighborhood, while some didn't. The reason why this video went viral—and has caused outrage—is because Tatiana happens to be a black teenager, which, honestly, shouldn't matter. But it does matter in this instance.

At least according to her neighbors who called the police on her and her guests.

RELATED: My Black Children Matter

Despite the adults being the ones who were using racial slurs, telling Tatiana and her guests to return to "Section 8 housing" and calling them "black fuckers," the teenagers were the ones handcuffed and told to sit on the ground. They were the ones who had a gun pulled on them, they were the ones who were chased down. These black teenagers, some of whom lived in the suburb, were treated as if they didn't belong—even though they had every single right to be there. Even though some of them and their families lived there. Grew up there.

The officer caught on tape resigned, according to reports Tuesday. A positive step. But it doesn't take away the fact that it happened and what it means that it did.

I realized that this video encompasses exactly what being black in America is like. That no matter where you are as a person of color, whether in a low-income neighborhood or in a suburb, you are still out of place and feared.

I don't know what it's like to feel completely safe or comfortable.

As a black girl that grew up in a similar community—with a community pool, where I happened to throw pool parties—this hits home. I realized that even though its 2015, even though we have "progressed," we have also definitely digressed. My parents moved us to the gated community on purpose, because they believed it would be safer. They believed it would protect us from the experiences they had growing up. And I did feel safe, though I never felt particularly comfortable around my all-white neighbors. I think that's because I believed that I was the same as every other teenager I encountered. That who I was was of value.

My life mattered.

Except I've come to learn that that isn't the case. I've come to learn that "black" equals "threatening," to be feared. I've learned that if someone feels threatened by a person of color, they have every right to attack them with verbal abuse, physical abuse, calling the cops on them and treating them as if they do not matter. We tell our children that they do matter, but what happens when people around you tell them something different? So often our media portrays those who are darker as the villain, as the best friend, as the person that matters less than the main character. That's how I grew up, seeing myself as the supporting character. I do not want that narrative for my children or any other children of color.

I'm angry.

I'm angry that this is the same story told over and over again. The backdrop is different in each scenario, but it's the same characters. The same image. As a black woman, all I see is: "YOU DO NOT MATTER. YOUR LIFE ISNT IMPORTANT."

I know my life is important, I know my children's lives are important, I know every other parent of color and their children are important. So why doesn't the rest of my country? Why didn't adults stand up for these black teenagers when a police officer pulled his gun out on them? What makes me even more angry is the fact that Tatiana's neighbors thought that the police officer was in the right. She was in her own neighborhood, a place that she probably felt was safe. Yet, her own neighbors were of no support, and they had little care for her or the guests of her party.

I wake up most days with fear in the back of my head. Not enough to stop me from going about my daily routine but enough to keep me very aware of my spaces and the people around me. I don't know what it's like to feel completely safe or comfortable. I don't know what it's like to walk into an establishment without worrying whether something bad could happen to me or my children. I do not want this type of life for my son and daughter. I want better for them, I demand better for them. I refuse to let those who are afraid of our skin color dictate how our lives will be lived. It is unfair to limit us based on what we look like, to determine that we are unworthy, unfit, unwelcome. Because who are these authorities who have decided to strip my children of a life they're meant to live?

So I will continue to share every video that shows injustice. I will raise my voice and I will fight. No matter how tired I am, no matter how apathetic I become. Because my children and your children and the children of the woman down the street? They matter.

I shouldn't have to remind those around me that my children matter, but I do have to. I will do it proudly and boldly. I will talk about race even if it makes my white friends uncomfortable. Because do you know what else is uncomfortable? Being black in America. Everyday we have to adjust and change our idea of comfortable. We have to make ourselves smaller and quieter. We have to tip-toe around things. We have to hear offensive jokes and smile. We have to deal with people touching our hair and skin without asking. I say no more.

I say THIS IS ENOUGH!

Yes, skin color doesn't matter; we are all people on the inside. At the same time, this isn't enough to invoke change. Color-blindness does not work, it only erases culture, identities. It whitewashes, removing difference. Simply because "different" can be intimidating, unknown. But isn't that what America boasts about? What it's proud of being? The home of those who are different, it's a place for everyone. So how about we start making it so?

Those sweet little black boys and girls you see, they will grow up to be adults. Where along the way do they become threatening, too scary to treat as human.

Those sweet little black boys and girls you see, they will grow up to be adults. Where along the way do they become threatening, too scary to treat as human. I refuse to agree with that narrative. I refuse to accept that black is the opposite of good. Black is beautiful. Black is what I am, what my children are. Its simply a color, a beautiful color that graces our skin, and so many others'.

I will say this as many times as it takes, over and over: OUR LIVES MATTER. We matter. Just as much as anyone else who lives here.

We have to stop accepting that this is just how things are. No, this is not how things are. This will be how things WERE. Because I will stand in the gap for my children and for every other child who is growing up in this country that is so afraid of their skin color. Of the conversation of race, and what it actually means to be someone of color here.

RELATED: Fellow Parents, Be Assured: You Are Not Alone

I encourage every parent to watch the video that took place in Texas. Don't hide that video, don't skip over it. Watch it, learn about what the black experience is, why there is fear. Something must be done, and I'm willing to make the steps to make that happen.

Here is to a better tomorrow, and a strong fight.

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Image by Margaret Jacobsen

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