A friend of mine wrote a post on his Facebook about being tired of feeling like he has to put on a smile while black men, men who look like him and his brothers, are being killed. This “performance” is exhausting. Most people of color know it well; we put it on in mostly white spaces. We put it on even if we’re grieving, even if we’re exhausted, even if we’re scared for our lives.
It’s a kind of desensitization yet hyper-sensitivity. It’s also depression. I know I’ve felt it. It’s most acute the moment we hear another black person has been killed by the hands of law enforcement for little to no reason. Another reason to believe that our lives really don’t matter and that this system is not built to protect us. Not long ago we were chattel. Black parents continually worry about not only their own lives but the lives of their children; white parents don’t have to worry about their children getting gunned down by police for the color of their skin and perceived aggressiveness.
While existing in this space as an educator, as a lover of books and as a black woman, I occasionally think thoughts like “Well who gives a fuck about diverse books when there are black bodies in the streets?? Is it really that important?”
It is. Self affirmation is strength and books have power. To escape this world & get lost in a book (even if only for a few minutes) can be a form of healing for families of color. Seeing a kid in a book that looks like you is empowering. That’s what we need, more empowered kids of color.
Representation matters now more than ever.