“How Many Black Lives Could We Have Saved if Society Had Listened Sooner?”

Hand Lettering
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER

From Cosmopolitan

In early June, much of the U.S. (including Cosmopolitan) opened their eyes to the systematic racism and injustice that has suppressed and suffocated Black people for centuries.

As friends and neighbors became more aware of their own privilege, the white supremacist structures in place, and how those systems impact Black people, we asked Black women in our community how this reckoning is affecting them. Here, all 69 powerful responses.



Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER

My name is Seyram, and I am Black. I am Black and I am an American. My color does not change this fact. One of the reasons I think police are being so violent against Black people (and are able to get away with) is because they don’t see us as Americans. They don’t see us as people at all.

Honestly, there are people in this country who want us wiped out. These are the white people inciting violence during our peaceful protests. These are the people defending and applauding the police for being violent to protestors.

But as a Black person, I know we’re strong. We CAN get through this. We’ve been fighting this system for centuries, and we will continue to fight, gain allies, and become stronger. Our voices will become so loud, there’s no way they can ignore us. We will rise again.

So, to any Black person who’s feeling discouraged, don’t worry. Most of the time, things become really bad when you’re on the verge of victory. The truth is, they’re scared of us. That’s why they keep us down. —Seyram Agudu


I woke up this morning for the first time in weeks, feeling supported and uplifted. I feel seen. —Tanisha Cherry



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Photo credit: .

As a person of mixed decent, I’ve always gotten by because of my light skin. My mom is Irish and Scottish, and my father is Black. For me, the occasions of encountering blatant racism are few and far between. But when it has happened, I felt so humiliated. And for what? So that person can feel better about themselves?

Here are some of the things I’ve heard throughout my life: I only like watermelon because I’m Black, “Glad you weren’t the one driving when we got pulled over,” “Your hair looks more professional straight,” “You’re so loud—must be your Black side.” I was called a porch monkey in grade school by someone who was supposed to be my friend. I’ve been told, “You’re such an angry Black woman”—the list goes on. These comments are hateful and divide us as a community.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

When I told someone this past week how I was proud Nickelodeon went off-air for nine minutes to honor George Floyd, he responded with “Don’t you think that’s a little harsh for young kids?” I said, “Yes, it is. But it was also harsh to be called a porch monkey, n****r, and other racial slurs in grade school by other kids who knew I was Black. I feel we should teach kids about these hurtful actions since they’re clearly already learning racism.” He responded by saying, “Yeah, and that’s something your parents should deal with and talk to you about at home.”

I was shook. So every Black mom and dad out there should have to speak to their kids to prepare them for racism? And non-Black kids can say or do whatever they want? NO.

I never spoke up before because I was complacent. I looked away from the horror because it sickened me and the shame I feel for this country would ruin my whole day. Now, I realize that we should all be ashamed, sickened, and outraged by the treatment of our fellow humans.

Because I have faced privilege, bias, and racism at different times through my life, I will continue to point out oppression, like the kind my family and I have lived with. I cherish my family more than anything, and all I can ask is that people educate themselves about the systemic racism happening in this country. All of our voices, stories, and actions make a difference. —Marshuana Carter

I feel exhausted but hopeful. Scared but challenged. The support, acknowledgment, and uprising is warming. But the silence is deafening. Change is overdue. Equality is belated. Justice is imminent. —Chanelle Martin


Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned


Growing up as a mixed-race woman raised by an incredible white mother and abandoned by an absent Black father was complex. I spent years grappling with my identity, struggling to connect with my Black culture while ignoring the sadness created in me by my father’s abrupt exit from my life. I never understood myself. And my mother, despite her countless strengths, never fully did either. I felt trapped in my identity—not white enough to be white but never feeling Black enough to be Black. I craved to blend in, to do anything I could to be fully a part of something.

My own insecurity was my downfall. In my predominantly white community, I became the subject of racial jokes that I played off as harmless while inside they tore me apart. I believed that I only got accepted to college because I was Black. Only accepted to graduate school because I was Black. I suffocated my beautiful natural curls with a flat iron every single day to have straight hair. I hid who I was. And despite all that effort, I was constantly reminded that I was different, and when you’re young, different can easily translate to problematic.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

I lived this way for 24 years. I denied who I was. I ran from my culture. And then one day, I woke up. I realized with so many people stifling me, the last thing I should ever do is stifle myself.

I guess what I want to say is that Black women are powerful. Black women are strong. Black women are alchemists who have spent centuries turning societal oppression into growth. Black women are smart and passionate and capable. I am grateful to be a proud, powerful, strong, smart, passionate and capable Black woman. It is a genuine honor to be a member of this community. For every little Black girl that is struggling to love themselves, never let anyone tell you who you are or what you are able to accomplish. You matter, you have always mattered. And I am so proud to be connected to you. —Darian Hall

Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER

I always want someone to listen to me, but when the time comes and someone is offering an ear, I’m not sure where to start. So many things are bothering me and leaving me with the feeling of turmoil inside. I truly don’t know where to begin. However, one thing that comes to mind is how hard it is to be heard when I do have a chance to speak. Whenever it’s my turn, I am always met with judgment and often before I can even complete my thought. I struggle with depression, anxiety and something that resembles seizures but no doctor ever “finds anything.” I’m exhausted all the time. —Renee

A Meditation on Color: A Poetic Approach to Our Pain

Hey, you.

I don’t know who you are, but you’re beautiful, and I don’t mean your looks.

You know what else you are? Alive. That’s the only thing I know about you. And I guess that you can read or be read to.

Yes, you’re alive right now, because you are here, open to my words, and honestly, I don’t care what color your eyes are or what color your face is. I don’t care how curly your hair is or if your eyebrows are naturally visible. I don’t care if you’re caked with makeup or if all of your pimples and so-called facial flaws are going commando. I don’t care how many eyelids you have or if you’re wearing glasses or if you’re squinting at this screen right now to try and read these words. If your teeth are crooked or missing or just perfect.

I don’t care about what you look like. Don’t get me wrong, I see color. People who say they don’t are kidding themselves. We all see color. We see it. We see it on ourselves, we see it on our loved ones, we see it on strangers. We have words for each color. We are socialized to see it, to think it really means something.

But color should not deter you from receiving love, and it should never deter you from offering love. Color should not be the reason you cross the street when you see someone approaching along the same sidewalk as you. Color should not be the reason you try to match two friends together and pressure them to date. Color should not be the reason you hold your purse tighter. Color should not be the reason you’re asking this particular person for help with your homework. Color should not be the reason you’re afraid to visit someone’s home.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

We see color, but color should not be the reason you want to touch someone, and it should not be the reason you don’t want to be touched by someone. Color should not be the reason you assume this person is poor or rude or loud before meeting them. Color should not be the reason you don’t hire someone. Color should not be the reason you assume you cannot relate to this person, this human.

Color should not be the reason for staring, leering, or laughing. Color should not be the reason you can’t ask someone for directions. Color should not be the reason you tell your kids they can’t be friends with a particular person or date a particular person. Color should not be the reason you shoot. Color should not be the reason you assume the worst in someone. Color should not be the reason you hurt someone.

Color shouldn’t even be the reason you’re nice to someone.

So, yeah, you are beautiful, and color has nothing to do with it, not right now. I’m not crossing any street. I’m not making any assumptions about you, because I don’t know you, at least, not at this time.

Take this moment because it is already fleeting and remind yourself that you see color.

But color should not deter you from receiving love, and it should never deter you from offering love. Even if I know your color, I still don’t know you. If somehow I could look at you right now, reading this on your phone or computer or tablet (’cause I highly doubt you printed this out), I don’t know you. I don’t know what you said yesterday or what you tweeted a week ago or how you reacted to so-and-so. I don’t know who your friends are. I don’t know who you’re seeing. I don’t know who you voted for. I don’t know you.

I see the world as it is, and it can be so caring yet so selfish. Spite is everywhere, internalized, ugly. Society has somehow turned into an adult coloring book, with a key that tells you what color to use and how to feel when we use them. Our prejudice and assumptions are our crayons. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Coloring books should be calming; they should feel effortless, yet there’s a pressure. So, in this instance, right here, I’m telling you to drop it, for just a second. Drop the crayons. Drop all of them.

Find love in this brief anonymity with me. Because right now, at this transient second, the default is beautiful.

Look for your crayons. They seem just a little different now, don’t they? Now pick them up, and go back to coloring. I’m sorry if it hurts. If it doesn’t, I’m even more sorry.

I’ll say it one last time before you leave, whoever you are.

You are beautiful.

—Brittany Du Bois

I feel drained. Drained from having uncomfortable conversations and drained from the weight of what is happening in the world. But I feel inspired and empowered. I am seeing people have compassion and empathy. And I’m seeing people who want to fight with us, knowing we can’t do this alone. —Ari Forer

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned


I’m a 29-year-old woman. I work in Atlanta. I have my bachelor’s degree in history. I love traveling, trying new foods, singing, making music, watching anime, and curling up with a good book. Unfortunately, because of the color of my skin and the way my hair looks, I’m pre-judged. It’s scary that the color of my skin can make someone already hate me before they get to know me. What’s scarier is that there are people who are still out there refusing to speak up or even fight against the inequality and injustice on our own land. I’m not one for rioting or burning down property, but I get it. I feel it every day.

It’s tiring not to be treated like a human. It’s tiring being scared to walk out your front door because someone might just take your life. It’s tiring crying for the Black brothers and sisters murdered by people who dehumanized them based on the color of their skin. It’s tiring being judged and condemned. I’m a Christian, and I was taught to love my neighbor and treat them like I want to be treated. Right now, that’s hard when you see that your neighbor doesn’t care about your life. I hope and pray that as a community and as a nation, we learn to have human decency and respect. I hope and pray that we are able to sit across from each other and get to know the person deep in their soul instead of creating a false narrative based on the beautiful hues of our skin. —Angelique Tyler



Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER


I am about to give birth to a Black son in October. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd have shown me that we keep repeating the same sins over and over again in this country. I want a safer future for my son. I am exhausted. I am tired. I am concerned. And my son isn’t even born yet. —Antonia Cover

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Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

I remember this vividly because it used to hurt me so much that I'd cry—especially since I was still figuring myself out as a young Black girl and I was so confused at the time, always sad and never felt completely okay. At that point in my life, I didn’t know whether I even wanted to live or not, but during that time, I had kissed a girl in the school bathroom after she had said she liked me. The word eventually spread out to my whole grade. I remember it was at break time when I was with my then-friend group and I think they were asking me about the kiss I had with this girl, then one of the girl’s boyfriend’s looked at me dead in the eye when he heard what we were talking about and called me disgusting.

And I remember seeing and feeling that he had held so much hate directed toward me that he could’ve spat it out. He really hated me for it. Honestly, something about the way he said it really hurt me, to a point where I started avoiding the girl I had kissed ’cause I ended up feeling so ashamed and embarrassed that I was “disgusting” for kissing a girl, and I’m pretty sure I had hurt her feelings ’cause I think she noticed I was avoiding her.

I just remember feeling like I wish I never kissed her because I noticed that people would stare and look at me when I passed by. I’d hear people talk about me or sometimes just straight-up laugh at me while I was there, and I just wanted it to stop.

I mean I’ve felt lonely plenty of times in my life all throughout primary school, but that was a feeling of loneliness I’d had never felt before. I just wanted to disappear. I know others go through so much worse every day, and I’m really sorry to anyone who has to endure any hate directed toward them because of who they are. This just shows how much words can really hurt a person. —T.S.



Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER


The last few weeks or—to be fully candid—years, have been an interesting experience for me as a biracial woman.

It’s forced me to look inward and recognize not only my own privilege but my unique voice and place in this conversation. That’s why when I saw your post asking Black readers to share their feelings, I debated if I even had a right to share mine. But I think my perspective is important, and from what I’ve seen, there are others who feel the same. So, below is something I wrote recently in response to #BlackLivesMatter and those not understanding their privilege. I thank you for the opportunity to share it:

I used to think being biracial was almost like a superpower. It allowed me to see the world from two perspectives. Experience two cultures. Live in two worlds. But growing up, I didn’t realize how literal that last statement was, that there really are two worlds. And that although I grew up metaphorically straddling the line between them, the truth is, the world only sees me belonging to one.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

And that’s my privilege. My skin just happens to look closer to my mother’s than it does my father’s. That that is how the world sees me. It’s true.

I can go for a jog. Get pulled over. Sleep in my home. I can exist in this world without living in fear. And I can do it because of how the world sees me. Because the world doesn’t see me as a threat. But members of my own family can not say the same. That’s a crazy feeling. To know in the eyes of some, your life “matters more” than the ones you love.

Being someone who is biracial but passes as non-black is an interesting experience, especially today. My support reads as allyship even though when I speak up, and speak out, I am standing up for my family, my community, and myself.

And there’s nothing wrong with allyship. Lord knows the world could use a lot more of it. But to me, it feels personal. To me, it is personal. Yet when I say things like that, part of me feels like a fraud. That because I’m not “black enough” my voice doesn’t matter. That I have no right to talk about this pain.

Because I don’t know the struggle. I don’t experience the daily fear. And I likely never will. But that doesn’t change who I am: the daughter of a black man and a white woman. A woman who is proud of her blackness and also understands her privilege. A woman who is ready to use that privilege to raise her voice and take action.

I started. Will you?

—Brittany Davis

One of my good friends died in a car crash a few days before all the protests and riots began, so I was already not in a mentally stable place. I’ve struggled with mental health since I was a very young child, and situations like these can tip me off the edge easily.

On top of finding out my close friend had passed away, I soon learned that another atrocious act of police brutality had occurred. I was (and still am) absolutely disgusted. I immediately began posting about police brutality and Black Lives Matter. However, I live in an area filled Trump-adoring white people (in the whitest state in the U.S., and my sister and I are the only Black people in our entire family), so I began seeing posts defending the cops who murder Black people with racist intentions. My social media was flooded with posts from people I know saying things like “all lives matter” and “if this happened to a white person, nobody would give a shit”.... you get the idea.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

I’ve dropped many of my “friends” because they were posting racist statements online. I’m emotionally drained and exhausted. I’ve cried myself to sleep nearly every night. Seeing the people you go to school with justifying the racist murders of Black people will mentally mess with you. I noticed how horrible my mental health was starting to become. It was like a quick decline. Now, I‘m trying to limit my social media intake. I’ve deleted the uneducated jerks and “friends.” I’m trying to grieve for my late friend. I’m slowly realizing I don’t need toxic racists in my life who hide behind the word “friend.”

When I attended the protest in my city, I felt so empowered. I remembered who I am. I found peace among people who supported me and my existence. I still don’t understand why the fight to end racism is a political issue. Nobody should be debating this. All of us should be in this together. Black Lives Matter. —Lexi Goldsmith

I am a Black woman and I am perplexed when people are silent on their social media accounts, because somehow saying “Black lives matter” is controversial. I just wonder, for the people I’m “friends” with, how is saying that my life matters controversial? How is calling out systemic racism controversial? This is not just a political issue, it’s a human rights issue. That deafening silence doesn’t go unnoticed, and that same silence will lead to the continued oppression of Black people and other people of color. Everyone should be screaming “Black lives matter,” and if you’re not, you need to evaluate what racial prejudices you hold and educate yourself.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

With that being said, social media posts shouldn’t be regarded as the best form of activism. This was clearly evident on #BlackoutTuesday. While some people were well-intentioned, others used it as a way of virtue signaling and hopped on the trend just so they weren’t deemed a racist. This was especially visible in those who posted nothing else about the racial injustice in America and solely posted a black square as their contribution. It was so disheartening to see such a powerful message be convoluted with performative activism.

I pray this movement isn’t regarded as a trend. Black people have been screaming, at the top of their lungs, about some of the same issues that have plagued the Black community for hundreds of years and only now are we finally being heard. I wonder how many Black lives we could have saved if society had listened sooner? If it was trendy not to be a racist a little sooner? I am so happy that the Black Lives Matter movement is now getting traction and inciting real change. I hope this momentum continues and we bring about a new wave of education about racism in all its forms because each is equally dangerous. —Alana Carter

I am a young Black female and I just recently started a relationship with a young white man. In the midst of this movement, we have been having multiple conversations about what’s going on. The other day we were discussing our political beliefs and he is a Trump supporter so I proceeded to ask why and tried to understand how he can support a man who is not trying to help his country and the Black people of this country gain the justice we deserve! As I continue to scroll through Instagram and other social media, I see posts about how if people support Trump, they are ignoring his racism and think that it’s okay. I am at a crossroads because he says that he doesn’t agree with Trump’s racism and sexism, but he still agrees with 70% of what Trump stands for and I don’t know how to further educate him. He also thought that a video I reposted on my Instagram story about the history of systemic racism was incorrect and wrong! I just don’t see how we can fully see eye-to-eye and I am worried that this will create issues further down the line as I question if he cares enough about my rights as he should! —Cheyanne


Honestly, where do I even start?

Just when I thought my mental health was bouncing back from the complete scariness of COVID, another Black man was unjustly murdered right in front of our eyes. Between taking care of myself, trying to stay informed, and trying to educate others on why it’s ridiculous that Black people and allies have to debate why we deserve to live—I. AM. TIRED.

And at the risk of sounding cliché, it’s not the kind of tired that a restful night of sleep will fix. Quite frankly, I’m f*cking pissed off too. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the verdict for the Trayvon Martin trial. Imagine JUST turning 18 and being faced with the reality that someone might find you menacing just because of your skin color. Imagine turning 19 and being faced with that reality again? How about 20? 21?

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

We have been SCREAMING, literally screaming, for people to wake up and pay attention for longer than I can remember—longer than any of us can remember. This goes well beyond the killing of George Floyd. That part is blatantly obvious. But what I truly don’t understand is why certain people choose to remain hateful when they could be educating themselves (without relying on Black people to do so. We’re tired of that sh*t too). Trying to undo all of the racism and ideals they’ve been taught. Trying to become better, loving people.

It’s also disgusting how the media picks and chooses what parts of this uprising to share, perpetuating the evilness. Technology is insane in this big year of 2020, so it’s quite baffling how people are still actively choosing to remain ignorant. WAKE UP AND CHECK YOURSELVES. WAKE UP AND EDUCATE YOURSELVES. If you’d actually take the time, you’d realize there is another world that exists outside of your small-mindedness, and it can be beautiful.

The world won’t be better until EVERYONE can throw a barbecue in their neighborhood park without being harassed. Until EVERYONE can walk home from the store with a $1 Arizona tea and Skittles with their hoods up. Until EVERYONE can play loud music while pumping their gas. Until EVERYONE can get a peaceful night’s rest after being on the front lines of a pandemic. Until everyone can live their lives freely.

My heart aches for all my brothers and sisters who live in fear that they or someone they love will have to experience such inhumanity.

Rest in Power to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, and the entirely too long list of others who have lost their lives to senseless violence and hate.

To those that get it, keep fighting. It’s working. To those that still don’t: Find it in yourself to do better. —Aaryn J.


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Photo credit: .

As a young Black woman in a divided American society, all I have to say is the white community needs to do better. I’m sad that it took another Black life lost for people to realize that Black lives do matter! The Black community has been fighting this same issue since the days of the Civil Rights movement. Our grandparents fought for change and 60 years later, we still have yet to see it. So instead of staying silent, commit to helping this movement in every way you can!

1. Donate, Donate, Donate!

There are numerous organizations that need your support right now and it you can see these all over social media. We are making a difference in the Black community and we need everyone on board if we want to change our circumstances. Instead of posting that picture of you in your quarantine sweats, donate to the countless Black organizations that want to help every Black person from young to old!

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Photo credit: .

2. Sign Petitions!

It seems menial, but these petitions are a perfect way to lend your voice, especially if you’re not out there protesting for the cause. Sign, sign! There are still those whose murderers have yet to be arrested or charged for their crimes! If you see a petition, sign it!

3. Please don’t tell me that all lives matter!

Doing this means that you’re not acknowledging the importance of BLM, and you’re being ignorant if you say that all lives matter

4. Read, read, read!

If you’re unsure about what’s going on or you’re unsure about certain issues within the Black community, read about it! Don’t choose to be ignorant if you don’t know. Take every opportunity to learn something new every day!

5. Check on your Black friends!

We’re still processing everything that has occurred within this last week! Check on them every day, offer your support and just tell them that you’re here for them! All it takes is three little words.

6. Protest!

If you’re able to participate, please do so! Support the cause!

The Black community wants change to happen! I want to see my children live in a world of equality, but that cannot happen if we don’t fight this! Do your part and support the cause!

—Alexandria Morgan


This is me and my sister. My best friend. We both grew up facing so many challenges because of our race. We endured physical bullying as well as a tremendous amount of emotional and psychological trauma because we were two of the very few persons of color in our very white small town. This matters! —Kylie Williams

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Photo credit: .

When they go low, we go high.

And when you get tired of going high (because we all do), it’s okay to take some time away and allow yourself to feel the trauma of everything going on around you. I’ve searched for words, but all I could do was pray. Pray for the families affected. Pray for my sisters and brothers who are affected and for the communities that were burned down.

We must come up with a plan of action that doesn’t cost more lives. And we’ve tried everything: peaceful protests, sit-ins, putting our hands up, speaking out on national platforms, to only name a few. I honestly don’t know what could change what’s been happening for years, but we must start somewhere.

I know God can change anything, and He uses His people to do it. So I’m agreeing to let Him use me to be a voice for change. And I hope many of you will too. It may seem small, but prayer changes things no matter what anyone says. I’m asking that everyone, no matter your race, take two minutes out of your day to say a prayer for what’s going on around us. Several voices, but one collective sound. I’m not saying this is the solution, but I’m definitely saying it won’t hurt.

During that time, I honestly didn’t know what to say, but I thought about all the people in the world who are experiencing disappointment and need something to grasp for hope. Sometimes disappointment only makes us stumble a little, but other times, it completely knocks us down. What if when disappointment came we knew how to deal with it so the bitterness would be a little more bittersweet? Well, here’s a try:

Be honest. This means being honest with ourselves when disappointment knocks on our door. Being honest with how we feel, not hiding the pain or the tears. We should give ourselves the time needed to be honest about how bad it hurts and block out the thoughts that tell us not to let it hurt. It’s okay not to be okay. Don’t tell yourself to be strong and suck it up because that’s not healing, that’s suppression. Whether the outcomes of disappointment are fair or unfair, it happens to all of us and we must deal with it in a healthy way so it won’t overtake us. As soon as it happens, take the time to honestly deal with it and acknowledge that it hurt you. Take time to cry, be angry, but don’t make a home there. It’s only the start of the plan.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Be active. People say that it’s time that heals all. I say it’s intentionality that heals all. We must be intentional about our pursuit of healing and moving forward after being disappointed. It isn't until we choose to seek healing, forgiveness, and new opportunities that we finally start to rise up. It’s our job to get active pursuing justice and creating the change we want to see. We must acknowledge that it happened, but we won't let it overtake us. One thing you can know for sure is that what has disappointed you will not be the end of you. There is so much greatness still waiting for us out there. Every day that we pursue wholeness, our dreams, and our passions, we are healing.

Be accepting. Lastly, accept what cannot be erased and work hard for what can be changed. Acceptance is awareness that even when you don’t feel like you’re okay, you are loved no matter what happens. In life, we will continue to have those things we can't change, but since we can't change the past, we should change our mindset about the future. We should learn to come together to create lasting change.

—Clarissa Burton


“What are you?”

"I never knew how to answer that. 'I don’t know, a human? A mammal? A monster that hides in your closet at night? What do you want from me?' I never thought I’d have to learn, really. And, to be honest, I still haven’t found it in me to figure out a solid reply.

'No, I mean, like, what race are you? Like light skin, or what?'

'Or what.'

The irritated looks have become the only bright side of a conversation I shouldn’t have to have so often. Why does it matter to you, stranger/class friend, what exactly I am? Will it help you determine whether I’m white enough to discuss about whatever white people talk about? Will it help you decide if I’m Black enough to invite you to whatever hip spot Black people congregate at? Or will it prompt you to ask me if I’m willing to carry a child for you because, 'Oh my goodness; aren’t mixed babies just darling?'

What am I? Well, let’s see: I’m an amalgamate of atoms. I’m a student in college. I’m a little frightened when it comes to scary movies and someone who loves shiny rocks and talking to bees. I am a dreamer and a lover and one hell of a fighter. I am someone who sings my heart out until my lungs are in my throat during long car rides, but does that matter to you?

No. You can act offended by my forwardness, but in your heart of hearts you know what you’re asking me. You know what answers you’re looking for—even if you don’t yet have the information. You don’t care that I’m allergic to nearly every food I eat or that I’m scared of heights but love riding in planes anyway. You don’t care that I feel out of place in the two worlds I was born between. You don’t care to see how insensitive your questions are because all you care about are definitive labels and if you can get in my pants or steal the future children you don’t care that I don’t want to have.

What am I? I’m pissed off. I’m livid that I have to politely entertain another dinner guest with their incessant prodding at my genetic makeup. I am the granddaughter of an orphaned woman that I don’t know because she abandoned my father. I am the descendant of a tribe of Africans that cannibalized their leaders to absorb their strengths. Oh wait, you don’t care, sorry.

'I’m mixed.'

'Well, duh, but of what?'

Oh, you knew I was mixed, but you don’t know common decorum or social cues about when to stop asking shitty questions?

'I’m the mix of a sperm and an egg, just like you.'

That response is often met with an eye roll and a huff of indignation or the occasional middle finger, which I refuse to throw right back. How many times do I have to deflect before you get the hint? Do I just need to shout 'THIS IS A SHITTY PERSON' to the world to get my point across? Do I have a giant neon sign on my forehead that tells you to ask what I am? I certainly can’t see it.

What am I? I am a woman who fears for her life every day because my Black grandmother tells me I would be a bad slave if I were sex-trafficked. Because she tells me the news about another Black woman missing, about another black man pulled over and shot, about another Black person sent to jail. I am a woman that is constantly uncomfortable in the midst of my white fraternal side because they don’t like the way I speak. Because they always tell me they wish they could be as tan as me, 'They just can’t spray me that color!' Because they pull at my curls and don’t ask first, since we are related and that means they are entitled to do so.

And speaking of hair, yes, it is real. No, it is not a weave. No, it is not a perm. No you may not touch it. Yes, I will make fun of you when you leave because you got mad at my last answer. Why does everyone remotely colored automatically have a weave in your eyes? Why does anyone remotely white with curly hair automatically have a perm? Yes, I have had braids before, thanks for asking. And, no, I cannot braid yours because I barely know how to french braid. I’m sorry to disappoint you, grandma, but your little mixed girl still can’t plait her own curls.

What am I? An afro goddess who wakes up with a rats nest on her head. I am an adamant supporter of bun hairstyles because I am someone who doesn’t need to wash her hair every other day, so I don’t. I am NOT, however, disgusting because of it. Thank you again for the opinion nobody asked for.

I am someone who tans easily and gets ashy often. I am a stubbornly curious, a head in the clouds Pisces on the cusp of Aries, with a Virgo moon and Libra ascendant. I am neurotic and anxious and sad. I am the most fun you’ll ever have on a Friday night and one of the biggest foodies you’ll ever meet. I wasn't named after the cheese, but enough people fuck up my name that I may as well be. I am a blazing force to be reckoned with, and you just opened the wrong can of worms.

'Why are you so worked up? It’s just a question.'

You are questioning my identity, the very foundation of what I am when it holds no consequence to who I am. You didn’t care to ask the who because that would mean I’m a person. But, no, to you I am a what. A thing to be filed with other things.

'It really isn’t that big of a deal, my other Black/Hispanic/white/mixed friend didn’t mind me asking.'

Oh really? Do I look like them? I guess I do, since you asked the same question. But I’m not sorry to burst your bubble when I say that I am not them. I will never be them. And I am not going to fit in a box that isn’t made especially for me.

What am I? I guess I’m selfish. Selfish to ask that you treat me like a human. Selfish to hope that you look at me as more than my breed. Because that is what you are asking. I have no pedigree. I’m not the blue ribbon dog you’re looking to comply. I’m a bitch to people like you who can’t think for a moment before they speak to consider if what they’re about to say is shitty. Don’t get me wrong, I'm not keeping you from your freedom of speech. You can keep asking your awful questions, making your insensitive comments, and saying that you want mixed children just because they’re pretty. But I hope you realize how disgusting that makes a mixed baby feel.

What am I? I am someone who is against having babies simply for attractive breeding. How would you feel if you were told, 'Oh, I didn’t really want you, I just wanted the cute pictures and the status of having a mixed baby.' I am someone who believes in people having children because they truly want a child, rather than the pride of having made something aesthetically pleasing. Go make some art, you heathen. I am also someone who has a lot of opinions on children when I don’t ever plan on or want to have children.

What will me answering what I am grant you? How will further our relationship rather than satiating some sick census in your head? Do you need me to tick some sort of box in your life, like, 'Oh, I now know this many mixed people. I’m just so cultured.' You had the opportunity to ask me anything. Anything at all. And you chose to go with, 'What are you?'

What am I? I think I finally know how to answer this. I’m done with the bullshit. Next question.

—Bryahnna Butler

Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER

I am frustrated on behalf of my Black community who have been fighting the whole time and are just now being heard. However, our resilience and passion will continue to drive us forward.. Maybe this is the giant push we needed for a massive systemic shift that actually cares about marginalized people. —Leah Birhanu

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

In the past few weeks, I've used my passion for exposing the unjust systems of America to speak out through my social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Since then, I have had countless frustrating conversations with my peers.

Most of them say this is 'not the American way,' or that I'm anti-American because I've criticized the leadership of this country. And I question how they can stand by any leadership that unconstitutionally threatens military force into states, without acknowledging the police brutality that plagues this nation. How they can stand by a leader who lets his country burn with the rage of a community of people that face injustice in every way without daring to propose a plan for a better system.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

The Black Lives Matter movement does not rely on one political party. It shocks me how my peers can look at this movement and call it a political agenda. How can unarmed Black men, women, and children being killed at disproportionate rates be political? It’s not. Apart from partisan ties, he is simply a man in charge of a divided country who has refused to aid police reform in the name of Human Rights. The leader of this country has responded to police brutality by inciting violence and sending more law enforcement where protests are already peaceful. If the president really cared about the corrupt systems in place and those who are affected by it, don’t you think he would address the nation with a plan to answer the pleas of his citizens?

I question why so many acknowledge there is a problem with police brutality, but don’t agree with the movement simply because it says, 'Black Lives Matter.' Why is it so bothersome to highlight one group who is struggling disproportionally? So many of my peers speak to me as if they know the plight that comes with being Black in America, but cannot tell me more about Black history other than slavery, it’s abolishment, and the Civil Right’s movement. They tell me that these protests do not work, only peaceful ones do. And that if the BLM movement wanted to be heard they should stop rioting.

In response, I ask them to tell me about what reform has come from the peaceful protests from the past eight years starting with Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and so many more. I ask them if they realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s protests were met with violence from the police, but were painted as violent on behalf of the protestors. I wonder if they realize he was one of America’s most hated men and assassinated for his beliefs. But they always glaze over it, saying that we are disturbing communities regardless. How can I be sorry that two weeks of violence has disturbed your communities, when racism has disturbed our entire existence? How can I be sorry when we have pleaded out to the government for change for years to no avail?

I have been to many peaceful protests with no media coverage. The America they see is through the news inside their homes, which paint the movement as violent. The America I see is one full of people who desperately want change and our calling out for the reform of the corrupt systems that have no regulations. I am tired of living in a world where our voices are drowned out by people who are uncomfortable. If you are uncomfortable during these times, then that is your sign that you need to educate yourself on the racist systems of America, such as education, the prison system, and even real estate. History is repeating itself as we speak. I am not uncomfortable during these protests and this movement, but rather hopeful. I refuse to be silent, and will continue to speak out on systemic racism until there is reform, until there is change, until there is finally justice for all. —Mia Collier




Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: CYMONE WILDER
Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

I am a black woman that follows you on Facebook, and I live in Montreal, Canada, I saw your post on Facebook looking for a way to give people like me a voice, and I want to thank you for that.

That being said I do not really know if this will be taken into account considering that I am outside of the United States, but I have this to say about the world we live in:

I am a 30 year-old-woman, a mother of two young children, a boy that is four and a baby girl that is 10-months old. I found it very difficult to explain to my baby angels that we live in a world were they will grow up to face situations were they are seen differently just because of the color of their skin, when I strive to raise them to have faith and accept everybody regardless of their color.

The situation going on in the United States and around the world right now is not anything I have not seen before. As an African woman born in Cameroon, I moved to France when I was 11 years old. I was told I was moving to a better place where I could become whoever I wanted, provided I studied hard in school.

With everything going on right now, it really annoys me to see big companies posting the same exact message all over my Facebook feed. “We stand with our Black community…..etc.” Don’t get me wrong, I strongly approve of he thought behind these messages, but what do these companies actually do to make things better for the Black community? The Prime Minister of Canada apologized to the Black community and Black mothers like me. I am really sorry, but it is not enough to apologize or post some statements on your Facebook walls. I want to see real actions.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

How about when a Black person applies to a job, you make it possible for him or her to actually be considered based on their education and experience, rather than judging them on their color.

I am sick and tired of the lack of good representation of women like me in the media. I want to see us represented—and not just as individuals from broken homes with dysfunctional lives.

I am sick and tired of sitting aside and watching things happen as others are given the chance to speak. As a Black woman, I have come to the painful realization that in order for me to be offered 1/10th of the chances a white woman with the same exact education background. I have to accept being treated as sub-human and laugh it off because otherwise, if I speak up my mind, I will be labelled “difficult.”

I am sick and tired of having to deal with ignorance every time I wear my hair in an afro at work or in a public space. People that want to touch my hair and are offended when I refuse—as if they would do the same thing to a white woman that wears her hair natural. I am sick and tired of being called “folkloric” every time I dare express myself through my clothes or dare to wear African clothing.

I am sick and tired of being called to interview for jobs I really want only to be asked several times to prove my identity because my face does not correspond with my Italian-sounding name.

I am sick and tired of having worked my ass off to get a bachelors and masters degrees only to have to work menial jobs because my skin color makes it nearly impossible to be considered well-paid jobs.

I guess what I want to say is this: I want to see real changes. I do not want everything going back to what it was before once the crisis calms down. If you—and by you I mean our government here in Canada and these big companies—really want to help my community, show up for us now and change things for the better. I don't want to have to worry about the world in which my two beautiful children are going to grow up in. —Ariane Chioccarello

“Hey Courtney, how are you doing? I just wanted you to know I am thinking about you”

“I’m doing, I guess”

But the reality is I find myself looking in the mirror more often these days, not because I care about how I look during the 14th week of quarantine, but to really see myself in the eyes of others. If you know me, I never saw myself as black and I never saw myself as white. I am biracial.

To be quite honest, I never really thought about labeling my race until others brought it to my attention, not because I was ashamed or confused but because in the household I grew up in, it didn’t matter.

Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

The first memory I have of “seeing color” was when my first-grade art teacher told us we had to color ourselves for a self-portrait. I didn’t know how to handle the sense of anxiety that overcame my body. My whole class was coloring themselves peach, and I knew I wasn’t peach. But brown? I wasn’t brown either…maybe a light tan? But what if I stand out too much? As I grew older, the crayon color no longer mattered (I wasn’t coloring as much), but the conversations continued.

As I navigated my life, I tried my best to ignore the way my peers described me to their parents as the “Black girl.” Oddly enough they knew who I was. I also tried to ignore concerning comments like, “You’re so exotic looking! What are you?” (WHAT AM I???)

Imagine growing up in a racially divided world where everyone is determined to tell you what you are. This concept is only part of the current events and the fight that the Black community and their allies are enduring. The world is telling the Black community WHAT they are without acknowledging WHO they are.

WHO I am: I am biracial, Jewish, and was raised by the MOST incredible grandparents in Margate, NJ (a predominantly white city). I have a graduate degree, and an education that allows me to wholeheartedly recognize my own privileges as a tool to advocate for the entire Black Community and the Black Lives Matter movement. I recognize my own obstacle, which in the big picture, are so minimal to the everyday obstacles the Black community faces. I know I must stand up and do my part, not only as a Black woman, a white woman, or a Jewish woman, but as a human being. At the end of the day, the only words that express who I am are Courtney Alexa DeYoung.

For anyone who states they don’t see color: Explain that to the first grader head to toe in anxiety because she doesn’t know why it mattered so much for her skin to be colored in her self-portrait.

Explain it to the seventh grader whose friends never referred to her as "Black" to her face, but justified jokes about Black people in her presence by saying, “not like you, Court, you’re not really Black.”

Explain it to the 12th grader who overheard a girl telling her friends that you think you’re better than her for growing up in Margate when in reality “you’re just as Black as she is”.
Explain it to me.

For anyone who has referred to me as their Black friend (either directly or indirectly) and to anyone who claims me as a friend, THIS IS YOUR FIGHT TOO! —Courtney DeYoung

Daily, Black Americans deal with an existential crisis. It's a never-ending maze of issues from a community, a country, a system, and a world of oppression.


I’m from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For those of you that are not familiar with my hometown, I am from North Baton Rouge. An area is virtually all-Black. Baton Rouge is actually one of the most segregated cities in America. We all lived an earshot from one of the largest chemical plants in the country and majority of the residents lived and STILL live below the poverty line. I saw it A LOT. We consciously and unconsciously fought for future survival EVERY SINGLE DAY. Our schools were underfunded, our sports teams were thrown together. We weren’t guaranteed physical or economic survival. I mention all of that to say that many often had and still have no real opportunity to move forward. We were hurting whether we were conscious of it or not. Some of us were fortunate but not many. The crux of this is that my community has not changed! People there are still hurting. They don’t know how to fix it. Aren’t given a chance to fix it. And many feel that no one cares enough to help them fix it. What many people don’t understand or refuse to understand is that there is a deep rooted nihilism and hopelessness that is embedded in our Black communities. Yes, we deal with police brutality, we deal with racism, we deal with bias, but we deal with SO much more than that. This may not land well but I feel as though we cannot have a conversation without having the ENTIRE conversation. Others can reach out to ask how we are, talk to friends and family about racism, be anti-racist, anti-police brutality, etc. but I often ask myself...” WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF IT?!


Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Are you helping to educate or support the education of young Black people? Are you not only supporting but helping to create and sustain Black businesses? Are you taking a grassroots approach and working to give Black people a way or outlet to rise from being under the thumb of white America?

The system isn’t broken. The system hasn’t “turned away from what our founders intended.” The system and this country were flawed from the beginning. It’s like building a table from rotted wood...putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.

Once all of this calms and we are back to our day to day, ask yourself “Am I doing enough?” “Are they doing enough?” “Are WE doing enough?”

I have drawn issue with the phrases “we are tired” or “I’m tired.” We can be disgusted, we can be sick of it, we can be outraged, but we can not be tired.

As late as it is, we must be full of energy. Energy to pour into our communities, energy to uplift, support, and protect our communities. We cannot lose this energy. If we do, it continues.

I could write several novels, and I would not scratch the surface of the infinite amount of issues that we deal with as Black Americans on a DAILY BASIS.

I hope that my words give you a glimpse of the first layer of trauma and battles that we are introduced to at birth. Police brutality is one of our issues. But it’s one of many that are so tough to fathom that sometimes even we are unable to articulate it.

—H. R.

After watching the videos for three days, on May 28th I decided to go down to Minneapolis' 3rd precinct to protest with my people.

I asked a friend to take me there. He was there the night before and had two huge bruises on his shoulder and neck from the rubber bullets police fired into the crowd. Still, he and his friends wanted to go back. They decked themselves out in riot gear before picking me up. On the ride down, he explained that the protests felt like a war between racists and non-racists, who believe that African Americans deserve to do normal people things without the fear of being killed. He said he felt responsible for making sure I knew everything before we got there. I was scared of the things he told me, but it also gave me relief to know what was coming.

He dropped me off two blocks away from the protest so that he could go park his care someplace safe. Since it was 4 pm, I didn't think the protests would be that dangerous, so I got out of the car and walked toward the precinct to meet my friends who were also protesting.

When I got there, I was greeted with tear gas. My eyes felt like hands covered in fire were trying to remove my corneas. I had to run while blinking rapidly. I couldn't see a thing, so I fell. Three people stepped on me before a s tranger helped me up and carried me over to the bushes. I found out later that someone was stabbed, which is why the police used tear gas.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

I finally found my friends. For the next two hours, the police used a few cans of tear gas here and there while people played music, smoked, drank, and made food. It finally felt like a peaceful protest, so I couldn't understand why the police kept using tear gas.

Medical was on scene with eye solution and milk to help clean eyes and tend wounds. Elderly people and children with riot wounds on there eyes and back were being treated as quick and delicately as possible. I was horrified. I tried not to look like I was crying behind my mask.

Why would people do this to us? We just want justice and to stop police killings, and have police take some responsibility. Three thousand police for three men shows a lot about our America.

Everyone's fear started to set in once the sun began to set because the worst parts of the protest have been happening at night. Just as it got dark I felt a weird stinging sensation between my eyes and nose(I had taken my mask off to eat). I closed my eyes and screamed "PEPPER SPRAY!"

I put my mask back on and ran to get away from the wherever the pepper spray was coming from. But it was windy out, so the pepper spray carried far. My eyes felt worse than they did from the tear gas. It felt like someone hand dripped hot sauce in my eye.

I had to cry and to keep letting the tears fall while drowning my face in milk. My skin felt like someone had tied me to the back of a car and dragged me all over the road. Then my right eye swelled shut. I was crying for my people, but the tear gas and pepper spray was a good cover.

At 11 pm the rioters break into the police station and set it on fire from the inside. It's beautiful but scary. My people are putting their pain into those fires and releasing all the fear and hate back into the atmosphere. This will either set a tone for our America. Everyone is picking sides, trying to find peace in this. But it won’t help settle anything. Stop killing us. —Cymbrie Wair


Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

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