Skin

Truth - Our skin tells a story. It can reveal the years worth of lived in the form of hieroglyphs disguised in the musings of finely etched wrinkles. It can tell of our hardships in the rough wear of calloused palms, gently bleeding knuckles, and dirt enhanced nails. It can convey our narrative of  barrages of blood drawings, stitched scars, and gnarly bruises. It also shares our culture, heritage, and some of the communities we belong to in addition to that common history. What does your skin say?

"The very definition of 'blackness' is as broad as that of 'whiteness,' yet we're seemingly always trying to find a specific, limited definition." Issa Rae

I don't know. I just felt compelled to write this ode of sorts to my skin, to all people othered because of their external physicality, and as a challenge to those who still believe skin is a valid unit of measurement for the value of a human life.

My skin is me and yet I am not my skin. Who would have thought some arbitrary evolutionary adaption would be the fulcrum of an argument for the mischaracterization, disenfranchisement, and dehumanizations of millions of people? The lies about my skin that are told over and over. The hyper-scrutiny I am subjected to. The fear, oh that dastardly, insidious, rationale breaking fear, that takes over and dark things happen as a result. I am black. I am marked by melanin but even more so the stories, ideology, and rhetoric that accompanies it. Don't you dare put this on me. I did not write this bestseller. I did not deceive the world. I didn't create an entire social construct with a deadly ramifications. I did not carve up an entire continent for colonialist imperialism masquerading as evangelical religiosity. You named me. Black. Black is associated with darkness, death, and evil. Noir, negro, Neanderthal. Uncivilized savages, godless beasts, aggressive animals meant to be tamed, controlled, and corralled. Meant to be nothing. Meant to always be a negative. Meant to always be told no. Fear, pain, anger, turns to danger, avoidance, and disregard. Exiled, expendable, and executed. Executive order. Steal, genocide, shackle, work, whip, rape, castrate, accuse, lie, lynch, revolt, rise, police, profile, incarcerate, murder, steal. Minds and bodies, terrible things to waste; wasted; waists cinched, iron clad, marched to drive an economy. Lives wasted, potential unfulfilled, opportunity lost, justice denied.

Skin drenched in color. Vibrantly radiant brown glistening in the sun. Vivacious covering wrapped around a warrior with a soul that yearns to be recognized as human. Melanin. Meld. Me. Oh to be young, black, and beautiful. To be a deliberately designed drop of decadence. To be off-limits, other, and our of bounds. To be a pawn, to not be able to play the game, to play by different rules. Longing, lust, and love - unrequited, unacknowledged, undeniable. Dark, ugly, unattractive. Object of exoticism, fetishization, and hypersexualization. Caricature of a body ... over-exaggerated. Full lips, pronounced brow, protruding nose. Voluptuous and chiseled. Well endowed and heavy assets. Ideal and imperfect. Bodies brutalized, beaten, and battered. Bodies stripped naked, nude, and left with nothing. Bodies made to toil, to tend, and to tell. Stories written with the body as the canvas - raw, real, and unrelenting. They keep coming. They are still happening. Will they ever stop? Passed by, overlooked, and invisible. Alternative, back-up, replacement. Never first choice, top pick, or desired. Mechanism to anger parents, quell the jungle fever, or hide in secret never to see the light of day. What do you want from us? Why don't you want us? Do you want us to hate ourselves? Do need us to hate one another? Why is our self-love seen not taken as resilience but rather a threat to patriotism? Is patriotism code for pristine alabaster white, and intolerant of the other complexions on the spectrum?
 
There is not one way to be any identity. Each and every person embodies the parts of who they are in the most beautifully complicated, and intricately simplistic of ways. We are concurrently some and whole. Our unique juxtaposition of identities, ideals, and experiences make of entirely one of a kind. Yet still, there are experiences that connect us all. The black experience is one demarcated by an arc of riddled with internalized racism, embracing oneself, and constantly negotiating blackness for the comfort of others. It is an awareness of culture, heritage, and community while being enveloped in a Eurocentric society that demands assimilation but is uncompromising in its harsh rebuke of you. It is moving betwixt and between completely separate worlds that are subtly aware of one another but are not conditioned to cohabitate for fear of dilution. It's code-switching, being hyperaware of not only where but who you are, and navigating a world that was not meant for you to ever be successful in. It is a pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness in spite of a relegation to a second class citizenship. It is persistence, resistance, and existence in a world that refuses to address let alone acknowledge institutional and systemic issues that are constant threats to not just a quality of life but life itself. It is never knowing truly what you're capable of because you are never permitted to fully unleash all that you have inside. It's being yourself but rarely being your whole self. It's a life fully lived, and yet not lived at all.

Have you ever been asked if you wanted to be normal? Do you know how that feels? Can you fathom how disrespectful, disgusting, and degrading that is? The answer however is both moot and rhetorical. Every one and I mean absolutely every one, if they had the choice to live of a life where their existence was validated, government sponsored, and socially acceptable; saw themselves diversely represented; and received the benefit of the doubt, would choose to have it be so. In reality though, those choices don't exist, and normal is relative. I am normal. I am regular. I am a human being. As I am, in my entirety, in real life. That's it. I have reached a turning point in my life where I no longer am preoccupied with the fool's errand of seeking the approval and acceptance of my humanity by others. I have emancipated myself from the confines of the woefully limited collective American conscious. I have absolved myself of the frivolous stereotypes, misconceptions, and dog-whistle politics that would seek to keep me confined.

I am exceptional, not the exception. I am phenomenal, but not a phenomenon. I am awe-inspiring, but not a spectacle of an awe. My blackness is my strength. It has been an arduous journey but one that has made me exponentially stronger than the feeble minded will of those who would underestimate me. My blackness is my connection. I am linked to ancestral lines that have continued in the face of insurmountable odds. My blackness is my love. I am capable of this remarkable kind of love, compassion, and empathy because of the love that has sustained me and those who look like me for so long. My skin, oh my beloved skin, how I adore thee. I would never forsake thee. You represent not just my race and the racism that others place upon it, but my family, my ethnicity, and my home. That gift of being able to carry home with me where I go is one that is priceless. My skin is unbreakable, unapologetic, and undeniable. X

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