Chase Quinn in The Guardian:
How does it feel to be black in America right now? First, I wonder, do I capitalize the “B”? Is that grammatically correct? More to the point, as an element of style, a choice, does it prove something to you or to me if I don’t? I confess I don’t know any more. These are the petty games that play on my mind as a black American. I cannot speak for all black people, of course. We are not a monolith; you seem to understand this by now. I can only speak for myself – as a black writer. That experience, at least, I know. Instead of worrying about the white man who might murder me in my own home, or on my morning run, what preys on me in the night is how I constructed the sentence as I replay the day, if it was adequately punctuated in its disavowal of racist oppression.
You see, I was raised in the house of “you can be whatever you want – with hard work,” the appendix like the slamming shut of a piano. I’m 33 years old. I was taught to be proud of being black, and I am. There are few things of which I am prouder. No dangling prepositions here, just the facts. I have earned the straight As. I have stayed past the bell. I have pushed myself to raise my hand, to venture an answer, even when I wasn’t sure I understood the question. I was taught that fear, like racial oppression or homophobia, was to be overcome. Walk with your head held high, my mother taught me. Let them admire and be transformed by your strength, by your unassailable conduct. Play it again, Sam – the one that says things will be different in the next life. They’ll look at me and think how far we’ve come. But will they, actually?
I heard from my cousin the other day. She texted me a video of her son on the news. He was protesting in front of the White House. To the newscaster, he said: “They’re not hearing us.” His friend added: “When you talk, it’s just words to them.” Just words indeed. I thought to myself: I should be proud. Proud that my little cousin, who also survived a school shooting just a few years ago, is out on the street, marching, standing up for what is right. Proud of his mother too, for raising a young black man and sending him to college, as a single mother. But instead I felt sorry, like I’d failed him. Like we all had.