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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Smith: The mental struggle of being Black

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Waking up every day is an absolute blessing. I’m grateful to be alive. Grateful for my health, family and friends. Grateful for life! But to be honest, many of us are exhausted from the race and skin color conversations. Tired of the necessary protests. Tired of the necessary DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) professional development and trainings at work. Tired of the fear. Tired of getting ideas stolen at work. Tired of the hate. Tired of being misunderstood. Tired of explaining ourselves. Tired of the news stories and hashtags. Tired of driving through rural Indiana on high alert. Tired. Exhausted. Fatigued. Overwhelmed.

When I found out that I was having a boy seven years ago, I was angry with God. This should be a joyous occasion, but it was not … at first. Why would God choose me to birth (and raise) a Black boy in America? I was scared. Terrified. Anxious. Why? Because I would have to teach him to be cautious at all times. What to wear. What not to wear. How to react in certain situations.

Two educated parents with excellent jobs raising Black children in America. It seems so simple, but it wasn’t. I was angry, sad and unsure of how I would protect my son even though we have done “everything right.” Black moms and dads are intelligent. We are talented. We are mommies and daddies, sons and daughters. Friends and family. Entrepreneurs and executives. Managers and teachers. Yet, we’re still not protected and have to fight for our freedom and equality.

Yet, there is hope.

I’m encouraged by our allies who advocate on our behalf and the friends in my network who work daily to learn and teach more about our culture, our hurt and our lives.

I’m encouraged by our generation and the next generation for having the courage to stand up and speak up. They do not back down and are passionate about their voices being heard.

And I’m encouraged to encourage you to find a space where you can be yourself and share your story. We’ve literally been on an emotional roller coaster over the past year ranging from George Floyd’s murder to quarantine life to virtual learning to police brutality to protests across the world to Kamala Harris being the first Black woman in the White House to losing loved ones due to COVID-19. I urge you to talk. Go to therapy — it’s healthy. Talk to a counselor, pastor or trusted friend. You’re no less of a man or woman for talking through your emotions. In fact, I promise it only makes you stronger, wiser and provides a sense of healing.

We may have to fight, but we don’t have to fight alone. Grab your brothers and sisters. Love on each other. Get the help that you need. And most importantly, call on the God who made you to give you the confidence to persevere. You are chosen. You are here for a purpose. Live in that purpose. Walk out that purpose. Exemplify the confidence in knowing that “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 ESV
Yes, we are royalty.

Leslie Nicole Smith is an executive in higher ed administration, a motivator and community leader.

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