While I’ve thought of myself as a racial minority all my life, it is only in recent years that I’ve come to view the term “minority” negatively. I wasn’t sure why. I just knew that I didn’t like being referred to as a minority. I knew my reaction related to my growing racial justice awareness and understanding, but I couldn’t put my finger on what bothered me. Then, I heard the term “minoritized people” for the first time on a PBS special about Zora Neale Hurston, the author and anthropologist.
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Just imagine, every day you are poised for something bad to happen. You may not be conscious of the tension, but it’s there. You’re primed for fight or flight. That’s a part of what it’s like to be Black in America.
In 1998, journalist Tom Brokaw coined the term, “the greatest generation.” It was the title of his book on ordinary Americans who, during and after World War II, were such an important part of this country’s growth and success. Many celebrated his stories using words like courage, sacrifice, and honor to describe the individual valor and contributions of everyday people. While Brokaw’s book wasn’t only about veterans, World War II formed the core of his greatest generation.
Until 2012, I didn’t know better. I thought that the civil rights legislation of the 1960s had leveled the playing field. I thought, I, as a Black woman, had opportunities to succeed equal to anyone in America. I was living in an illusion, thinking that some people just didn’t try hard enough, and others needed more education. I believed in a meritocracy. I thought if you dressed a certain way, got a certain level of education, talked a certain way, you could, no, you would get ahead in America. Then Trayvon Martin happened.