A lot of kind statements about black people are coming from the pens and minds of white people now. That's a good thing. But sometimes, it is frankly hard to tell the difference between expressions of solidarity and gestures of absolution (See, I’m not a racist, I said you matter!) Among the most difficult to swallow are social-media posts and notes that I and others have received expressing sorrow and implying that blackness is the most terrible of fates. Their worrisome chorus: “I cannot imagine … How do you … My heart breaks for you … I know you are hurting … You may not think you matter but you matter to me.” Let me be clear: I certainly know I matter. Racism is terrible. Blackness is not.
I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t earnestly happy about the fact of my blackness. When my cousins and I were small, we would crowd in front of the mirrors in my grandmother’s house, admiring our shining brown faces, the puffiness of our hair.
My elders taught me that I belonged to a tradition of resilience, of music that resonates across the globe, of spoken and written language that sings. If you’ve had the good fortune to experience a holiday with a large black American family, you have witnessed the masterful art of storytelling, the vitality of our laughter, and the everyday poetry of our experience. The narrative boils down quite simply to this: “We are still here! Praise life, after everything, we are still here!” So many people taught us to be more than the hatred heaped upon us, to cultivate a deep self-regard no matter what others may think, say, or do. Many of us have absorbed that lesson and revel in it.