Seventy Times Seventy-Seven
“When somebody hurts you, they take power over you; if you don’t forgive them, then they keeps the power.” -Cicely Tyson (as Myrtle in Diary of a Mad Black Woman)
I was walking to class when I heard, “You act so white.”
I froze. My heart sank.
At seven years old, I felt like a fraud.
At seven years old, I realized that society had just informed me that I wasn’t good enough.
At seven years old, I began to believe that I could not be me AND black.
At seven years old, I wondered what “acting black” was and why I had been given black skin, if I didn’t fit in.
At just seven years old, I decided that I could not love an identity I had that I did not know.
So at just seven years old, I began to embrace every bit of “whiteness” that I could.
I was hanging out with my white boyfriend when I heard the devastating words, “Get that n****r out of my house.”
It took the breath out of my lungs.
At fourteen years old, I felt unworthy.
At fourteen years old, I realized that even if my generation was “more aware,” I would be up against the beliefs of past generations.
At fourteen years old, I began to believe that I ought to despise the skin I was in.
At fourteen years old, I wondered why my skin color preceded my character.
At just fourteen years old, I decided that to be black was to be ugly and unworthy.
So at just fourteen years old, I gave my body away. My desperate need for love and approval took me to places I never intended to go.
I was assigned my first professional mentor and when I typed her name in, a black woman appeared.
I immediately cried.
At twenty-one years old, I felt seen for the first time.
At twenty-one years old, I realized that representation had the power to expose the deep insecurity I held within.
At twenty-one years old, I began to believe that black was beautiful, powerful, and resilient.
At twenty-one years old, I wondered why I had believed that I had a one in a million chance of being successful.
At just twenty-one years old, I decided that it was time to believe a different narrative.
So at just twenty-one years old, I chose to not only acknowledge my blackness but embrace it.
In Matthew 18, Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
And In Matthew 18:22 Jesus answers, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
At seven years old, I felt the sting of whiteness. At fourteen years old, I grieved the love that whiteness has destroyed. At twenty-one years old, I refused to accept the glass ceiling that whiteness created.
And at twenty-eight years old, I want to be reminded that whiteness only maintains its power if we choose not to release the stronghold its very existence has had. Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times.
As Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’
So I say to you, beautiful black woman, be finished with the bondage of whiteness. Not for them, but for you. Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times.