She felt physical pain when her effort was disregarded. For a long time, she’d strenuously tried to push open doors that felt as if they’d been locked just for her and come to no avail. Some people didn’t know that feeling. They didn’t know what it was like to see everything you longed for dangled on a string and held just within your reach, creating hope that one day it would be in your grasp – yet somehow you never managed to reach it.
She was a fish on a hook, clinging onto her dreams with desperation, oblivious to the pain that awaited her at the surface where she’d only be left to struggle some more.
Perhaps succumbing to the system was an inevitable ending. Perhaps some people just managed to hold onto their sanity for a bit longer than others but realised embracing complacency made things easier. She imagined life became simpler once you accepted what it is and what would never be. After all, would you not rather be comfortable under the dictation of the enemy than be a part of a struggle that felt endless?
Her neck was sore, her back cracked and her legs wobbled with the weight of her plight on her shoulders. But she didn’t like to complain. She hadn’t known the sting of a leather whip being cracked against her back, the insufferable soreness of metal rubbing against her ankles and wrists or the famish of a week-long empty stomach. How could being rejected from interviews, being stared at on the train or followed around the shopping centre compare to what her ancestors went through? Today, she could use public bathrooms, work in private sectors and eat at the same table as her colleagues and friends but women clung onto their purses in those bathrooms, managers paid her 12-14% less than her co-workers and her own people dehumanized her as an ‘Oreo’ or a ‘bounty’ for sharing that table.
Yes, her plight was different to her ancestors, but they were also just the same. Only now, the shackles were invisible but still manufactured by the white men in high positions who were allowed to dictate how far we could go in our careers according to the heritage of our last names, which shops we appeared to be able to afford according to how dark our skin was and which hairstyles we could wear according to our curl patterns.
In the past, she didn’t understand why she was any different to them. She loathed the very idea of it because being different was what they penalized her for but now she understood. How could she be the same as these people who have never known what is was like to fight for the right to live? They didn’t know the struggle of starting from the bottom and feeling for so long that you were going to stay there. They didn’t know what it was like to be called ‘coloured’ by a person whose face glowed red after laying so long in the sun to claim our melanin. They didn’t know what it was like to be black.
Despite all this, she still clung onto the hope of eventual change and she was certain that one day they’d have it. A privilege she held to high esteem was being able to witness it every day when one of her people would rise from the streets and start a new movement or would save a life as a lawyer, doctor or nurse. Of course, she still hoped for a modern-dayarmy of support like Nelson Mandela, wisdom like Martin Luther King Jr. and determination like Malcom X. But there was nothing she would change about being black and that’s why she massaged her neck, back and legs and continued to power through.