Guests of the Inner Sanctum

“I Love You. So Before You Tell Me Why I Should Watch ’12 Years as a Slave” Consider This…”


That I think about slavery every day. And have for as long as I can remember. Every time I look into my eyes, big and brown like Harriet’s and Sojourner’s and the thousands whose names I’ll never know. Every time I write my own name, “Allen” isn’t native to Jamaica.

I think about it when I remember my father’s disdain for American blacks, wanting to separate himself as far as he could from “stupid and lazy.” They don’t have the work ethic of Caribbeans. I think about it when my brother tells me how he dresses strategically to avoid getting followed around stores. Glasses and tight clothes. They make people feel safe. I think about it when I see the hardened faces of black teens and look away because I can’t bear to see anyone that young feeling that unworthy. I think about it when I see their baby brothers giggling, my heart breaking for the pain to come.

I think about it when I go on Facebook, Instagram, and every other time I engage with the world. It’s my history, alive in my blood, reflected in my eyes and on my skin. There are times I almost forget because my life is pretty damn fantastic. And my mom is white. But my skin isn’t. So a reminder is never far. I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad. But because you’ve told me you want to understand as best you can, to talk about it and feel uncomfortable, to recognize your privilege and consider your guilt, to feel the indescribable grief.

To heal. Together. I’m beyond happy you watched the movie and let it touch you deeply. And I’m thrilled Steve McQueen made it so disturbingly perfect that it could. But for me those hours are better spent on something that makes me smile.

Written by Abigail Allen, printed with permission and originally posted on her blog, Perfectly Mixed. Check out her journey exploring the diversity of America through pictures here.

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