Centering Myself

In a square, vintage black & white photo, two Black women pose in front of a car.

I come from a long line of strong Black women. My grandmother used to share stories about how she caused “trouble” in town when a white man hired her to put up the displays in his store window. At that time, all the Black women in town worked as domestics in the homes of white ladies, or in the foundry. She rejected that.

As strong as my grandmother and other Black women in my life are, I’ve also taken in countless unspoken lessons about taking care of and protecting the needs, desires, feelings, and wellbeing of white women—even to my own detriment.

This is my role in white supremacy: when I combed through my childhood, my maturity to adulthood, and even my adult life, I realized that I had lost my best friends—mainly white women—because at various points in my life I needed their focus to be on me.

Most recently, I lost a friend when I began pushing back and asking to also be important in our relationship. She decided that she wasn’t willing to care for me or be there for me the way I was for her. That stung. A lot. But what surprised me the most was my own reaction: I was upset but I was not shocked. It wasn’t news to me. I think I finally needed to hear her say out loud what we both already knew. At that point, there was nothing left to say and we parted ways.

Addressing white supremacy is painful. I’ve lost friends and recently had to stop speaking with my neighbor. But I’ve found beauty as well. I’ve found more of my voice. I work more on speaking up and addressing my needs, and not just those of others. There are days where I simply center myself. And for once, I allow myself to just enjoy it. I’ve also cultivated more sincere and meaningful friendships with other white woman in my life: those who can acknowledge the work is painful for us both, and yet still remain my friend. I want to have hope for us all.