Real American: A Memoir

My great-great-great-great grandmother Sylvie was a slave in Charleston, South Carolina. She bore three children by her master, Joshua Eden, by which I mean he raped her; there is no consent in slavery. I come from people who survived what America did to them. Ain’t I a real American?

When the amorphous mob harrumphs about the needs and rights of ‘Real Americans’ they don’t picture me. People like me. But is anyone more American than those of us formed by America in an angry war with herself? I’m so American it hurts.

We need white allies.
I hate that we need white allies.
We need white allies.

We the people cannot continue to abide the claims from police officers and civilians on the witness stand that in just seeing our Black bodies they were terrified. You have to be terrified for a justifiable reason. The skin God gave us is not a reason for you to be justifiably terrified.

We are terrified—of you.
We continue to try to forgive. To live.

Sometimes I do wonder, where is God in all of this? But then I think, maybe he did give us the choice. Maybe he gathered a group of souls together and asked for volunteers. Maybe he said “Now who wants to go down there and inhabit a Black or brown body? Who wants to take that on? Who wants to live in America where you may be treated like the scum of the earth? Who will walk among white people and be their opportunity to learn compassion?” And the bravest souls looked around at each other and raised their hands.