For days I've wanted to use a pen to get to the core of how I'm feeling. I've avoided the pen, but here I go with the contents of me.

How do I unpack 50 years of built-up anger, assumptions, fear, mistreatment, judgment, stress, frustration, missed opportunities, letdowns, rejections, disappointments, and lies?

How do I unpack 50 years of stares that linger too long, scraps instead of the best portion, unwanted handshakes, no invitations, whispers of secret plans, heads bowed or ducking out of avoidance, questions that shouldn't be asked, deflection, an immediate fear when looking through the rearview mirror wondering if the lights will come on, changing my driving plans to avoid the men and women in blue, assessing if an exit is safe to stop when on a road trip, and the turning of heads the other way when saying, "Hello?"

How do I unpack 50 years of an empty seat next to me, lunches alone, wondering if my skin tone will be rejected by students and colleagues, hoping someone who looks like me would be hired, looking at profiles and able to count on one hand who resembles me, voice silenced, ideas ignored, and the requirement to always perform head-n-shoulder above my counterparts?

How do I unpack 50 years of being told "no" with no reason, doors closed, higher rates, subpar services, cuts in lines, entitlement to the space occupied by me, and visions of unwarranted attacks?

[Perhaps I'm not supposed to unpack, 'cause where would I put the contents of me.]

Please note: SWAAY typically tends to share longer op-eds, however, we decided to break our editorial standards in this case due to the power and simplicty of this piece.


Nicole Smith