Three Thousand Ancestors

I am carrying the weight of three-thousand ancestors on my shoulders, their burden and struggle rest in my bones. The tears I cry are the same tears they shed, my anger and frustration made to match theirs. 

When I was younger I wouldn't say I was naive, but I was sheltered, raised by a single mother who not only wanted the best for me but to protect me. I was a black girl growing up in the south and at some point in my childhood I assumed racism no longer existed- that has been wiped clean in the 60s, right? 


How wrong I was. 


My first memory of being treated differently because of the melanin in my skin came in high school when I and my then boyfriend went to the North Carolina state fair. We sat down to eat at a food stand and were told by the owner we couldn't eat there. No matter what we said his answer was no, yet others were eating and enjoying their food. More people came to sit and eat and weren't told anything other than "enjoy your meal".  No explanation was given as to why we couldn't also sit and eat that evening. I was many things that night, confused, mad, angry, frustrated, annoyed, but most of all I was hurt. 

My eyes were open, awake, and the prickling on my skin was not only from goose bumps, but an uprising of those three-thousand ancestors who came before me, telling me, "toughen up descendant, you're going to need tougher skin. Straighten those shoulders, descendant, you're going to need to be resilient. Raise that head high, descendant, you have been built from us and we do not give in."

At that state fair, I didn't understand how a person could discriminate against another, simply because they are different. Today, I still don't. 


I don't get it. 


I don't understand how differences separate us when they should unite us. I don't understand the hatred a person can harbor for another, whether it's because of skin color or religion or sexual preference.  


I don't get it. 


I don't understand how a person can be spat on, beat up, lynched, murdered, tortured, abused because they are different.


 I don't get it. 

One thing I also don't understand is how people can go on with their lives, as if the world around them is not backward and falling apart more each day, as if it's ok that the rights my ancestors fought for no longer matter. 


I don't get it. 

 

Hatred shouldn't be in anyone's heart.

 

As my ancestors survived being taken from their homes, made to suffer a trip across the ocean, placed on plantations to work until their bodies broke, forced to carry the children of their masters, lived in a world that told them no-

NO, you cannot sit here.

NO, you cannot eat here.

NO, you cannot move here.

As my ancestors marched, as they rediscovered their heritage, as we continue to do the same- I am beginning to understand why I feel I am carrying the weight of three-thousand ancestors on my shoulders, why their burden and struggle rests in my bones, why the tears I cry are the same ones they shed, my anger and frustration made to match theirs. 


While the cycle of oppression continues to rear its ugly head, and it seems society is taking steps back instead of forward, my goal is to listen to those who came before me, 


"toughen up descendant, you're going to need tougher skin. Straighten those shoulders, descendant, you're going to need to be resilient. Raise that head high, descendant, you have been built from us and we do not give in."


I don't know where this world is headed, but I hear you.

I will.