By Ayisha Elliott
I was born in Eugene. A Black baby of two revolutionary Black parents and the fifth child of our crew.
I grew up the only Black girl in every aspect of my education. I met other girls who were bi-racial Black and white as I got older. We had different permission from our parents. We understood things differently. When you’re young the narrative of your parents is what drives your foundational decisions.
We foundationally were different. As I grew older the definitions of blackness outside of my household became increasingly more relevant. My ideas around blackness didn’t reflect the history my parents taught me. The blackness that was acceptable didn’t match the blackness I was born into.
Outside of my home, blackness was aggressive and over sexualized; it was strength throughout inflicted oppression, athletically directed, lacking intellect and something to maintain in support of whiteness without reproach. I learned how to fit in quickly. Always knowing, quietly, that I was smarter than the rest of them. I learned how to switch my language, my style and my approach.
However, racism is tricky when fed to children of color as repose, discipline and behavior modification. Racism is tricky when fed to children as safety measures and deemed necessary for their survival. With this onslaught of colonization and anti-blackness regiment, how do Black children survive and ever see and love their true selves?
The narrative our ancestors have given our great grandmothers, our grandmothers and our mothers is a playbook to the magic that lies within our melanin. It can shield our souls from the lies we are taught to take in. Our connection to a higher source of truth through our ancestry line is how we process it. That is insider information.
Some of us survive, some of us do not. I don’t mean in a physical way, although that can be justly argued. I’m speaking on a conscious level — conscious level of truth about our very soul and placement in this world. Insisting that our truth, or powerful existence, our undeniable value is not only subjective, but objectively real, factual.
As I’ve grown, and untangled white conditioning to allow what my parents instilled to shine through, I’m left with a deep understanding of whiteness. I know before they do what racist proposition I’ll be invited to critique or participate in. I can intuitively see where the line is for them on the truth around racism, and to intentionally avoid that space to appease the predictable fragility that follows.
I know how to recognize performative support, and sincere ignorance. Am I scarred? Or do I carry a secret weapon? I know them better than they will ever know me.
I can act as “properly” as they require for their own comfort. I speak their language, often more eloquently than they do. Is that a gift? That is assimilation.
Assimilation is not a gift.
That dance is not a gift. The gift after all of these years of healing the white conditioning is to have grown to a space of unapologetically Black. I survived. I do not wrestle with what is right and what is white. I no longer wrestle with permission to wear my hair free, to allow my body to be big, to laugh loud when joy sweeps over me.
I survived. Now it is my turn to thrive.
Ayisha Elliott’s podcast Black Girl From Eugene is raw and uncensored monologues and conversations about living while Black in the PNW. Listen locally at 11 am Sundays on FB Live; simulcast on KEPW 97.3 FM. Audio found on all major podcasting platforms.