Everything about my father was massive—callused, weathered hands from years of hard labor and broad shoulders squaring his 6’ 3” frame. He squeezed me as he shook me, and if he gripped any tighter I knew I’d snap in half. Trapped in my toy store sleeping bag, I went silent and still, my eyes forced wide open and staring straight at him. His face suddenly paled, the shaking stopped, and he placed me gently onto the floor. He walked out of the room, into the shadows of the hallway, outside.
Suddenly I saw the problem everywhere: There were no women of color at the spiritual events I attended. None of the empowerment accounts I followed showcased their work and the female entrepreneurs they featured were strikingly homogeneous. Most of the mommy blogs I read were written by white, mostly blonde, ladies. What I realized after Charlottesville is that the racism I’d experienced paled in comparison to the experiences of other non-white folks. My hallpass, the one that had let me navigate conversations about race from the vantage point of the oppressed, not the oppressor, had suddenly expired.
I started holding back. I stopped listening. Beyoncé embodied blackness and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to be a part of it. As her performance at Coachella neared, a platform that could be considered the whitest music festival ever, I was nervous. Beyoncé as headliner wasn’t just exciting, it was momentous. Her mother was uneasy at the thought of her daughter performing on such a historically white stage, too. What if all those white folks just didn’t get it?
I was so far removed from blackness that I couldn’t recognize it on myself and when I saw it on others, I really didn’t know what to make of it. My peers told me I wasn’t really black; I “didn’t count.” And the more they told me I didn’t “count” as black, the more I began to believe them.