My Breakup Letter to America
We’ve been together for 33 years so this may come as a bit of shock, but after the past few years, as I’ve become more aware of myself and subsequently this relationship, I’ve come to the realization that this relationship no longer contributes to my path of joy, abundance, peace & alignment and as such, I am leaving you, in pursuit of joy, happiness, peace and abundance.
Growing up, my family’s affluence, the way I spoke, even my name (“Heather”) made me “too white” for many of my Black peers, which led to years of bullying, teasing and mockery and in high school, at one of the most prestigious private schools in DC, my affluence didn’t nearly compare to that of my white counterparts who were children of Fortune 500 company owners, former presidents and the like, so I didn’t quite fit in there, either.
The number of times I witnessed and/or overhead racially-driven micro-aggressions from my classmates far exceeded my ability to count and I’ll never forget how it made me feel. These experiences through childhood and adolescence made me question when/where I would ever feel genuinely safe, and when/where my ideas, philosophies and unique creativity would be nurtured and protected as a young, Black teenager. I remember resenting my parents at times for putting me in private school because it exposed me to racial issues that made me feel deeply insecure and out of place at a very critical period in life. I could sit here and blame the students, but really America, I blame you.
As a mother now, I more throughly recognize the powerful influence that parents have on their children and now realize that these micro-aggressions were mere perpetuations of the ideals held by my classmates’ parents; the same people whose houses I’d go over, whose parties I’d always bring gifts to and whose children I once considered friends.
Needless to say, America, my matriculation through high school was very challenging so when I was presented with the opportunity to attend college, there was quite literally only ONE institution in the entire contiguous United States, Spelman College, where I felt as if my identity would be nurtured in a way that upon graduation, I could more confidently & authentically navigate the predominately-white corporate world that was waiting for me.
I spent 4 of the best years of my life living, learning and maturing in an incubator for Black female excellence but what I didn’t realize after graduation was how tumultuous your & my relationship would become. You see, America, in order for me to make any money as a language educator (and I was very fortunate to have determined my career path prior to graduation), I needed a Master’s degree. Unlike in undergrad where my parents were fortunate enough to cover the expenses of my education, pursuing a Master’s would mean that I had to borrow from you…tens of thousands of dollars…in order to obtain this degree. It took me a few years to finally wrap my mind around what would potentially be life-long debt, but in my industry, I needed the degree & the credentials in order to ascend in my career.
Seems like a sort of "Catch 22", right? I needed a higher degree in order to make more money in my career to then spend a lifetime paying you back for the very same degree that I earned.
My twenties with you…my goodness…those were the toughest years. I look back on those years as some of the most challenging years of my existence, but those same years helped shape me into the woman, the entrepreneur, the mother and the wife I am today, so I’m still grateful for all of the challenges I encountered.
My 20s, like my adolescence, were riddled with insecurity because I was pursuing a career that I was deeply passionate about but couldn’t seem to make ends meet with, all while friends of mine in the corporate world seemed to be flourishing. I was inundated with graduate school loans that I struggled to pay off because as an ESL instructor, the only job opportunities were part-time with zero benefits so I was depressed, uninsured, confused and completely and utterly lost. I subsequently indulged in alcohol and smoking to distract me from the complications of being both passionate and broke, I gained tons of weight because it’s much easier to access fast food than anything nutritious in this country and I continuously manifested relationships that were just as toxic as the one I’d maintained with myself.
3 years post-college, at the height of my depression, Trayvon Martin was murdered in cold blood and it was the first time in my life that I’d ever heard of "Stand Your Ground" laws. It was the first time that I truly began to question our relationship and it was the first time my trust in you was shaken to such an extent that I began to not only worry about my own safety but that of my Black family & my Black friends.
Month after month, year after year, another Black man, woman, or child was shot down in cold blood while the murders were all found not-guilty, further reinforcing Black trauma & fear every single time we turned on the news and scrolled through social media. Truthfully, we've become somewhat desensitized to the brutal murders shown over & over on mass media outlets which only demonstrates the internalization of our fear, trauma and anxiety about living in this country.
I continued to stay with you despite the sheer brutality you incessantly inflicted upon my people, reminding us every day that we still live in a country where Black lives don’t matter, that no matter how educated we are, how polite we are, or how compliant we are, our lives are always in jeopardy because people refuse to see our humility, our love, our generosity, or our beauty; rather, they see thugs, angry, hypersexualized women and dangers to society.
Between the food deserts, mass incarceration, climbing Black maternal mortality rates, the prison industrial complex, a refusal to incorporate critical race theory into schools and tons of other examples of institutionalized racism over the past few centuries of your existence, America,
I’ve finally begun to really see you for who you are; a country founded on the premise that my people were merely 3/5th of a human being, a country whose founding was based on the brutal and blatant oppression of Black people and a country whose ascension was rooted in the institutionalized & systemic oppression of the very people its has never seen as being fully human.
Now...this may have been something that I could “deal with” when I was navigating life on my own but things changed when I became a mother. Even if I did the intentional work of finding a doula, a midwife and/or a traditional Black female doctor to beat the odds and safely deliver my children, upon entry into your world America, I’m rendered completely helpless in trying to protect my children because at some point, especially for my baby boys, they’ll be seen as threats instead of the intelligent, well-rounded Black children that my husband and I raised them to be. People one day will look at Josiah and hold their purse a little tighter, profile him because of how he dresses, judge him based on the color of his skin or worse, potentially take his life because they were simply "standing their ground".
This is a reality that every African-American mother has to learn to embrace but I refuse to.
My husband and I have seen how Black and Brown people live in other countries and although there may be fewer “amenities” and “conveniences”, what I’ve learned is that one of the biggest inconveniences in this relationship with you is that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, how successful you are and/or strive to be, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are or how kind you are to other people, as James Baldwin said so beautifully, "to be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage” and I will not continue to embrace that as my reality; not as a mother, not as a wife and certainly not as a Black woman.
I wanted to say in closing, America, that I found a truly magical place where my people are thriving; abundantly, joyfully and successfully. They don’t live in fear of police brutality or systemic racial oppression; rather, they live in pure bliss, eating fresh fruits and vegetables grown naturally from the land, working their jobs & returning home safely to their families, spending time during the week or on weekends enjoying the sun, the ocean air and cleansing energy of the water, dancing to the sounds of their indigenous music with pride and authenticity because there aren’t systems in place to ensure their oppression, their degradation and their belittlement.
I found a place where my children’s innocence will not only be preserved but encouraged, where their spirits can come alive fully and freely because nobody sees their beautiful Brown skin as demonizing or threatening. I found a place where my peace can be restored, reinforced and reinvigorated because depression won’t set in every time I watch the news, and because I won’t feel worried/anxious anytime my Black husband or Black sons leave the house.
I found a place where the money I work my ass off to earn doesn’t vanish within moments because of the inflated cost of basic necessities (food, healthcare, education) and what’s more important is that after years of struggling to make ends meet, I’ll finally get to experience financial freedom without having to wait until I'm 65 to enjoy it.
So thank you for the 33 years, America.
Thank you for all of the education I received, thank you for the friends and the community that I’ve gained over the years, thank you for all of the lessons learned, for the highs and the lows and everything in between.
But I’m leaving.
In pursuit of happiness.
In pursuit of joy.
In pursuit of tranquility, serenity and abundance.
This is what my family needs, it what we want and most importantly, it's what we deserve.
A mother, wife, entrepreneur & future expat