University of Chicago student Nina Katemauswa offers a glimpse into the race-based thinking fueling many of the campus protests that are occurring nationwide.

…Black is still black.

For once you are born black, there is no growing up—only growing in. Every year you are encouraged to retreat more and more into yourself and apart from the light of first-classed civilization until you are indeed so dark you are nearly invisible, when at last you are finally sterile and safe for the rest of society. But only after you have thoroughly been muted down, pegged a few notches below the normal assuredness, and dimmed to your least vibrant of settings, transforming into a less threatening shade of yourself in each potentially dangerous situation in exchange for a more pleasant experience of subjugation at best—in exchange for the right to stay living at worst.

Black is a nation 20 years past apartheid yet still decades from equality; it is voting along party lines, not communal benefits; it’s half a lifetime’s worth of jail time for a crime you never committed except through birth; it’s watching your entire village be ravaged in three weeks by a disease whose cure is still so foreign to people like you: black as the night sky in the loneliest of African deserts—in the prism of day-to-day life with skin the color of “outsider.”

It is startled, fallen, shaking Mike Brown at the edge of death; shot one time too many by the hands of an enemy as old as dirt, as dark as time, more dangerous than even the stark white grip of Darren Wilson’s cold hand on the trigger:


Black is knowing this should not be my story to anguish over, my pain to emphasize, knowing that some forms of grief are collective and raw and persistent, knowing that the alternative to being gunned down isn’t living freely but living quietly, never crossing the wrong stars and finding yourself in the wrong place or the wrong time at one of destiny’s many not-so-color-blind crossroads. Like the grief-stricken paths of a thousand frozen black mothers, clutching prayer beads and tissue papers tonight, remembering the small dimple, the crooked smile, the tender brow of a child whose fate was aligned with a million crashing black asteroids of inevitable destruction, of final torment, from a bullet too strong, too determined, to be deterred by the power of maternal pleading or unwavering belief in the divine alone.

And Black is still black.