I heard it, but my heart felt it

Everyone always mentions the microaggressions

Those fetishes and strange obsessions

But my first encounter wasn’t subtle

See, the harsh consonants beat the air from my lungs

The words hung heavy in my little 8-year-old mind

As I was pushed aside at lunch

And told ‘you can’t sit here…because you’re black’

And my little tabula rasa mind was struggling to decide and codify

As you tried to deny my presence

9-year-old me was greeted with gollywogs at a friend’s party

2, 4, 6, 8 sat side by side staring down at me from the stairs

‘They’re just collector’s items’, the mother said

And she watched my Black eyes flicker at the sound of her white lies

Knots formed in my stomach

At 10, a friend and I begged our teacher to celebrate Black History Month

We had fried chicken, bakes and plantain,

And when tasting our food, they got a taste of our culture

And like colonisers what they liked they kept

Vultures coming for the culture, but never the pain

Wanting our style, but not our delayed start to the game

So, in 2020 I know I’ll still have to ask workplaces to celebrate Black History again,

I think my children probably will too

So, for me, it was blatant, blunt, obvious

But then came the microaggressions

See, all the overt stuff stops

Or maybe you just get used to it

But you never stop feeling it

And suddenly racism came packaged in little parcels and tied with ribbons

You know those boomerang compliments like:

‘You’re pretty for a black girl’ or ‘you look like you can sing’

And even, ‘your hair doesn’t feel very niggerish’

That one made me wince.

And whilst their fingers interlocked through my locks, I filled with dread.

For once annoyed that they didn’t ask that question,

That I’ve heard far too many times.

That they didn’t ask my consent,

Didn’t ask my permission,

Before invading my hair, my safe spaces and home.

Every day, I wake up black and every night I go to sleep black

And yet, on Monday I’m told I ‘sound white’

But on Tuesday I ‘sound black’ again

Then on Wednesday, I’m told to ‘stop acting black’

But on Thursday, you think I need to ‘stop acting white’

And every damn Friday I’m interrogated with ‘where are you really from?’

And on Saturday, your eyes pierce mine as you interrupt with ‘no I said REALLY from?’

And on Sunday’s,

On Sunday’s

On Sunday’s I sigh

I cry

I grieve

I struggle to breathe.

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