Living in Mississippi as an African American can leave you experiencing negative assumptions, different connotations, changing views and many perspectives.
Even so, you always come back to one trait: your race. Your Blackness in life is inescapable but in predominantly white spaces, it can leave you suffocated.
Being in predominantly Black spaces prompts you to embrace your culture and what makes you yourself. Predominantly white spaces can lead you to do the same, but it is in a different context and often for different reasons. It can be tiring.
The suffocation of Blackness isn’t the overwhelming daily life of living as a Black man, woman or non-binary person in spaces where you have to strive to be overqualified, where you’re still unheard and overlooked. The suffocation of Blackness is the feeling that comes with filling those spaces. Being a minority in predominantly white spaces makes you the advocate for all Black people, the overachiever and the most categorized.
We have all heard the famous question in a predominantly white space, “What do you have to say on the topic?”
The question that makes white peers fear eye contact and teachers always ask to hear your opinion, so you can vouch for the African American community.
When walking in a space, you have to be prepared at all times. You have to have the best clothing, proper enunciation and the latest update on politics, education and other topics. When given the opportunity to fill spaces, you must be properly educated since the fleeting opportunity in itself is an “honor,” even though your white peers are easily given those spaces to fill.
The suffocation of Blackness is being looked at in awe when you score higher than your peers, or the unmistakable double-take reaction when you open your mouth to speak and articulate your perspective. The suffocation of Blackness is the topic being thrown at you because it is assumed to be a topic you know plenty about. It is the expectation to speak on race in every space, conversation and situation.
While being given the opportunity to express the feeling of navigating life and your perspective, there comes a time when your Blackness isn’t the core of who you are and all you have to offer. People have pages and while being Black may seem like the whole book, that’s merely half of the story.
So the next time you speak with a minority, remember that their race is important, but that’s only the surface level of what they have to offer.
Bre’Anna Coleman is a sophomore political science from Drew, Miss.