good-bye and thanks for all the fish. wait, that’s the wrong letter. my apologies. i will start again. good-bye and thanks for all the opportunities you have provided me and my fellow black brothers and sisters to can’t over the years. really, when you promised access to the american dream, i had no idea how utterly generous you would be in giving me chances to can’t. you are too kind.
i recognize this letter might seem a bit abrupt to you. i’ve been leading you on, allowing you to think everything was groovy for so long i had us both fooled. truthfully, i just wanted to believe so badly that we were cool. you, with your patriotic songs, festive independence celebrations, abundant space and opportunity, and boundless ingenuity had me all kinds of enticed. i lusted after that luscious american dream. you made it look so good.
so i went for it. i took advantage of the free education you promised all citizens. i never questioned what you were teaching me because i was so damn thrilled you wanted to shower me with your gifts. as i got older i kind of noticed that my educational resources didn’t quite measure up to what they had across town, but it wasn’t that big a deal. something is better than nothing.
when you told me i could be whoever i wanted to be, i accepted the challenge to become a journalist. if you ask my mom, she will tell you i came with a love of words and exercising my ability to speak. on my road to becoming a journalist, i discovered a few cracks in the foundation of your promises. i could become anything i wanted as long as i chose from the pre-constructed list of options. and while i could rise in the ranks of said profession, i would have to compete against those who looked like me and wait my turn because even though there are endless spots available (in academia and in industry) only a set number are open to me and my kind. (was anyone else confused about white students complaining about “affirmative action” and how it disenfranchised them, but non-white students never made up more than 10 percent of the total student body?)
of course you don’t advertise this, it’s tucked away in the fine print with all the other implied but not stated restrictions on my freedom. when i took a closer look, i noticed that many of the freedoms i thought i had were limited. access to housing, healthcare, education, politics, and justice come with such strict regulations the smallest infraction can result in their permanent rescission. always read the fine print!
as you can imagine, i’m left feeling pretty busted and disgusted. over the last few years i have been getting by with a rationed number of can’ts in my pantry. it was hard, but based on my projections i had a few more years before things got really bad. and then shit hit the fan. we elected a black president and the foundation gave way. all the cracks you had been plugging with temporary plaster crumbled under the pressure. you were left exposed. the broken promises, the lies, and the tricks were laid bare for the world to see. while some diverted their eyes in hopes you would pull yourself together or at least have the decency to cover yourself, i couldn’t look away. i had to take you in. when i saw the ugly truth, i realized, i had reached the end of both my love affair with your empty promises and my stockpile of can’ts.
here i am today, depleted and completely unable to can. again, i realize this seems sudden. but alas, i have to be true to myself and do what’s best for me because despite the pervasive belief to the contrary, my life matters. my blackness matters. my womanhood matters. i matter.
so thank you. it’s not me, it’s you. i know it might take a while for you to fill my loss, but rest assured you will. i hope during that time, you’ll look back and think of all the ways this could have gone differently. learn from your mistakes so you don’t have to go through this again in 50 years. i wish you the best on your internal journey. deal with them demons honey!
a black american woman who has lost the ability to can