Sometimes I get tired of talking about being Black. Hell, sometimes I get tired of being Black. Quite frankly, it is exhausting. Everyday I must defend a part of me that I did not ask to be a part of. I must construct and deconstruct images of myself that have been imposed by the media. I must change minds and tendencies that are so deeply rooted in hatred, laws and traditions all over the world, that I cannot walk down the street without someone’s scornful eyes piercing me or without receiving a certain amount of unwarranted hair-curiosity from strangers. I rejoice when I see a fellow black man or woman because sometimes the comfort of physical similarities can ease the weariest heart. Especially now, as I study abroad, I crave patrimonial similitude – a common ancestry that places so much meaning and common ground in normal body language; a glance, a nod, the way we walk. Yet, I find myself floating along among the 50 shades of whiteness, not expecting – no, never wanting to hope – to see any dark spots in the midst.

In Central America, just as in the United States, the shades of people vary from cloud white to freshly ground coffee Black, with every hue of brown in between. However, even abroad, the connotation behind the word ‘Black’ and people of African heritage remains to the same – a menace. I listen to other Costa Ricans and some of my peers speak about how “dangerous” the province of Limón, Costa Rica is, how it is filled with thieves, murderers, and drugs. I find it no subtle coincidence that the province is composed almost entirely of black people, descended from the Caribbean. I traveled through Panama City, Panama where beneath the high rises and mega malls lie miles and miles of slums – whose Black people curiously poke their heads out of the doorways when tourists pass by in taxis. I have rode in the back of a taxi, when the French tourists in front of me pointed at a Black girl on a bike with dreadlocks and haughtily dubbed her a “ghetto girl.” I have walked through the neighborhoods of west Tuscaloosa, where in contrast to the historical mansions and pristine university across town, thousands of Blacks and Latinos live in run-down Section 8 housing, without air conditioning or other amenities.

Yet, how is it that I can feel closer with these thieves, drug dealers and ghetto girls than with their lighter-skinned counterparts? The answer lies in the commonality of our constructed truths – we are seen the same. Yes, some Black people are drug dealers and some steal things. But so do white people. These are not traits intrinsically derived from our blackness, but rather stereotypes thrust upon our darkness so that when one person commits such a deed, every fear is confirmed and that person – thief, robber or drug dealer – blazes the way as a cultural representative. I feel a certain proximity to Black people everywhere because many of us bear the same burden, fatigue. We are constantly trying to fight stereotypes and break molds. Constantly fighting to tear down the images constructed of us and build a brighter, more realistic image.

Resha Swanson b-fatigued-photo

These things are difficult. This is not an overnight struggle or a quick fight, but a lifetime battle that we pass down from generation to generation. So, to all my white counterparts and those who make decisions, all we ask is that you let us be black. Let us tell our story and show you who we are. Stop telling me who I am and what I do. Do not tell me that I am dangerous and murderous. Just sit back, be quiet, and let us show you who we are – a group of proud and strong people. We are a group of people who persevere and triumph. We area group of many faces and shades but with a common thread and story that holds us together. We are a people who tire but never quit.

Sometimes I am tired of being Black; but I will never quit being unabashedly, unapologetically black. 

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