Black Culture: The Wounded Warriors

Jun 25, 2020
Written by
Nichole Herbert
Photographed by
A

s I cast my gaze over the large green pasture ahead and draw in mother nature’s gentle breeze, I allow my imagination to carry me away. It is June of 2020. I am a citizen of the richest nation in the world. My country has self driving cars, news that can be obtained within seconds, deliverable apps for pretty much anything... and presently, finds itself in the midst of the largest civil rights movement of its time. It’s a bit ironic considering how progressive we’ve been as a nation in so many other aspects. Basic civility seems like it would be a no brainer compared to traveling to the moon. However for my culture, true equality has always resembled that infamous metaphor of the hamster on the wheel. We can push as hard and fast as we can, yet still somehow end up right back where we started. My name is Nichole. I am God fearing. I am an artist. I am a mother, friend, lover, fighter and before that, a black woman. As I cast my gaze over the large green pasture ahead, tears stream down my face uncontrollably as my conscious mind fights to understand how my nation can be so majestic and destructive simultaneously.

My childhood had its doses of trauma. My parents loved us hard, but they were wounded, and they weren’t always equipped to handle it. My mom was and still is the smartest woman I know. She was a finance manager that handled million dollar budgets for some of the largest corporations in the world, but she was black. My dad served his country in the United States Navy for 30 years. He sacrificed his life, so that Americans could sleep peacefully, but he was black. For my parents, being black meant being passed up for opportunities to their fellow less qualified non black peers. It meant having to fight the faculty on behalf of their daughter not being accepted to advanced placement, when she had the highest grades in class. It meant fighting every single day for the base line access to the American Dream that their constitution promised access to. Except, their constitution didn’t have them in mind when it was comprised. In fact, their ancestors were still in chains when that constitution was drafted—even after fighting for their country’s independence. America’s sick and twisted shadow of truth that my parents were reminded of every day, was that they were always superior enough to be used, just not enough to be recognized. Just as their ancestors were always superior enough to build this great nation, just not enough to reap its benefits. That feeling of powerlessness creates a Dystopia in any functioning human’s mind. Even with their best intentions, they simply came up short some days.

Their pain is ubiquitous throughout black culture. It has had its hold on generations upon generations, and reveals as the source of a black wounded culture. A black wounded culture with an average median income far below poverty guidelines. A black wounded culture with the highest amounts of violence and self destruction. A black wounded culture that shows the most support to the same businesses that represent its history and essence the least. A wounded culture comprised of broken minds, broken spirits, and broken hearts, that only know how to reflect its pain back on one another. My black wounded culture wakes up every day to put on our wounded warrior mask, because along with all of that pain curdling just beneath the surface, is the added pressure to conform to this imposed American standard. There is simply no room at the table to seek mental and emotional healing for the wounds derivative of this mighty nation. There is no room to demand the END of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation of the very culture that has made this mighty nation billions of dollars. There is no room at the table to demand reparations for the millions of men, women and children slaughtered, lynched, and maimed due to the color of their skin. There is no room for George Floyd, Atatiana Jerfferson, Tamir Rice, Freddy Grey, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and countless others. For whatever reason, there simply isn’t enough room for us. Therefore we conform. As women, we conform to the reality that our natural hair, hips, lips, and style will more often than not be deemed unworthy until our European counterparts mimic it, plaster it across a billboard and reap the riches of it. Our men must conform to the reality that their entire presence poses as a threat to America, most specifically to law enforcement, regardless of what they are doing. Finally we must condition our beautiful, bright eyed children to conform to the notion that they are growing up in a society that simply will not love, nurture, or validate them the same as it will other cultures. The little boys will have to work twice as hard to be seen, and the little girls will have to fight twice as hard to be heard.

I have a part time job as a customer care representative for an insurance company. Today, I received a call from a man that wanted to file a formal complaint to the CEO of the company for an ad displaying “some black man” as he recalls, verses it’s white counterpart that previously played the role. He was irate, and grew increasingly disturbed at my stuck reaction. “I don’t want to see some black man on their commercials, and I want something done about it!”  After releasing my brain from its state of shock, I asked him to hold while I got a manager. While on hold for her I broke down crying. I was angry with myself for having let this man’s statement get to me. After all I should be used to this by now. “What he said wasn’t even that big a deal,” I thought. “Why am I crying?” When the manager finally got on she simply stated, “That’s his personal opinion. We cannot take a formal complaint over someone’s personal opinion regarding our company’s advertising decisions. He simply doesn’t need to watch if it upsets him.” Had she seen me she would of recognized my dumbfounded look after not having thought of that myself. I was so used to conforming, I forgot I had a voice. I am disappointed by the power this man’s words had over my emotions. I am disappointed that I haven’t gotten over these types of comments when I’ve heard them all my life. I am disappointed by my feelings of defeat.

As I cast my gaze over the large green pasture ahead, with tears streaming down my face, I suddenly feel the warmth of God. His unmistakable presence calms me, and I hear him whisper the words “keep going” Suddenly like a movie real, over 400 years of my black wounded culture’s achievements spiral throughout my mind. Like a flower that bloomed in the most adverse conditions, my culture has bloomed despite America’s weathered climate. We have bloomed from chains to CEOs, from drug dealers to Doctors, from lawlessness to Lawyers, from poverty to POTUS, from addicts to athletes, from misery to moguls— all because we kept going. As for mom and dad? They turned their dystopia to our Utopia, when they advanced to the next tax bracket, created their own American Dream and secured the success that they rightfully deserved. They didn’t bloom because the conditions for them improved, they bloomed because they chose to grow anyway. They chose to align with the vision God created for them and chose to keep going, growing and thriving. The Universe will always find a way to restore its balance. There is no light without dark, and love will always prevail.

As I cast my gaze over the large green pasture ahead, I smile as I am reminded that my black wounded culture is full of magic.

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