It Had To Be Said

things you can’t do while being black in america

i didn’t want to make this list. i’m probably not the first person to make this list. if you do a google search, you might come across more of these lists of things black people can’t do in america. and that sucks. the fact that this list does exist is a problem. this is america. home of the brave, land of the free. but i don’t feel free. most days i feel terrified because i have zero control over the reaction my blackness will provoke.

black people are tired. we have been trying to convince ourselves that we aren’t tired, but this charade is getting old. i can’t continue to smile and pretend like we aren’t watching our rights eroded, our lives threatened, our existence erased. we are not free. we are not safe. and every day there is a hashtag that tells us as much. #IfIDieInPoliceCustody, #SayHerName, #BlackLivesMatter, #IfTheyGunMeDown, #YouOKSis, etc.

for the last two years, i have struggled to maintain my sanity. i’ve forced myself to wake up and go to work. i’ve convinced myself that what i do matters because access to education means access to the american dream. but even with education, gainful employment, a good home, money in the bank, a loving family, and a record of being a model citizen, your life can be stolen from you in a matter of minutes and justice will be as elusive as white america’s commitment to equality.

there are things black america has collectively accepted as fact in this country. each of us will be expected to represent all of black america, but white people will always be treated as individuals. black people will always be culpable in their own death at the hands of police or nondescript white person who felt threatened by them. white people will have the luxury of blaming a mental illness, neglectful parent, or martians from outer space; but the responsibility will never lie with white culture. black people understand that we were slaves in this country longer than we have been “free,” and after slavery were the black codes, and after the black codes was jim crow. white people struggle with the realities of time and fifty years of having the right to vote might as well be an eternity of equal rights. black people know there are spoken and unspoken rules that govern our lives and breaking any of them could result in the loss of everything we’ve worked hard to achieve. white people trust the law will be on their side and justice will prevail, and why wouldn’t they when it was written by them, for them?

speaking of spoken and unspoken rules black people are forced to follow if they want to survive in america behold the list of things black people are not allowed to do in america. please note this is not an exhaustive list. feel free to add your own in the comments. yes, being black is exhausting. please forgive me if i can’t help you manage your white guilt. i’m too busy trying to survive it.

switch lanes without signaling
wear a hoodie
sale cigarettes
smoke cigarettes in your car
run in fear
play in the park
play with a toy guy
stand on the corner
ride public transportation
have car trouble
be in a car accident
sleep on your couch
reach for your ID
have an opinion
be confident
ask why you are being detained
ask why you are being arrested
listen to music
be in your own yard in a white neighborhood
have a busted tail light
drive without insurance
have a warrant for a non-violent offense
have a handgun even with a license
go to the liquor store with a “fake” id
walk on any campus
walk on the side of the highway
film a police officer breaking the law
eat at a restaurant
have any sense of agency
be black
believe that your black is beautiful



Nourisha Wells

I'm cool and incredibly fun. I geek out on scifi/fantasy/action, video games, comics, superheroes and the outdoors. I pwnd the interwebs for a living.

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