Black Exceptions

I am emotionally exhaustipated.

Hope has returned home from band camp, and we I am trying to get us back on our normal routine.  At about hour 38 this morning—not even 2 full days back home—I lost my ish dealing with Hope’s morning lag time that seriously makes me late for work every MORNING! I was an episode of Snapped and it wasn’t pretty.

I’m pretty keyed up and I’m not proud of it. Just lost in the throes of mourning, sadness, grief, and anger over recent events. I returned to work this morning and set about catching up and reaching out to colleagues in locations affected by death and protests. There is just a dark cloud of messy emotions.

Over the weekend I spent a fair amount of time on social media and ended up pruning my lists of friends and acquaintances. I typically keep the security settings fairly high on my personal FB page, only those close to me really get to see me unedited and uncensored. Amazingly, a lot of people don’t seem to bother self-censoring, editing or using security settings to do it for them.

I tend not to accept friend requests from colleagues or students, and if I do, most go on a special list of folks who get to see very little of what I post. #boundaries

So, if you follow social media you know that these spaces are still rather frenzied over the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five fallen officers in Dallas. There is an enormous amount of noise.

Some of that noise included “friends” and colleagues posting all kinds of tom-foolery about the shootings. There were racist memes, pro-murder/lynching memes, articles from less than reputable “news” (I use the term so loosely here) sites about how awful those black men were. There was absence of civility for a diverse group of folks, unless of course you think you are exclusively among like-minded “friends.”

Then there were the “friends of friends” who posted all kinds of utter non-sense on their “friends’” walls, which because of their lack of privacy settings, turns up in my newsfeed too.

The trauma don’t stop, won’t stop. Ugh!

It’s ok to disagree on many things, really it is. But the willingness to spew venom and nastiness into the world is just beyond me. How angry and discontented with your life do you have to be to do that? Is that really what you want to spend time doing with your life? You’d rather post a racist meme than share a silly sloth video? #Iloveslothvideos

Hate is such a hot and bothered emotion. Meh.

As I scrolled and scrolled through newsfeeds and timelines looking at the mess, I thought to myself, “Self, what would happen if I “liked” any of these posts?”

What would their reaction be?

Would they feel any shame?

Would they think I was really that self-loathing?

Would they realize that I got a peek behind their personal curtain to see who they really were?

And what would their reaction be when we saw each other at an event or meeting?

Would they expect that we would still be cool? Did they expect me to just let it slide as a momentary lapse into episodic racism?

Or would they think that somehow I would understand that they weren’t talking about ME, because well, I’m different. I’m the exception to the rules that governed their racism.

I started slashing and burning through friend lists on Facebook and announced that I was doing so. I don’t mind divergent opinions, but I have limits on acceptable levels of foolery.

This idea that I might be different is troubling.

Do I defy their stereotypes? Do I exceed their low expectations? Is it because, well, I’m one of like 3 black folks that they know personally and so that makes me different? Is it because I can code switch? Is it because I don’t scare them? Is it because I don’t make them uncomfortable? Is it because I don’t make a big deal about their whiteness and often maleness and don’t indict them on what I see as deeply rooted, systemic racism, sexism and ageism in the community I work in? Or is it because I’m just not really black, or what they perceive as black so they can just recategorize me into the reserved space for special, super cool black folk who will take you to, and keep you safe at, the soul food restaurant when you come to town so that you can say you lived a little while you were on that business trip? #seriousprivilegeatwork

I’d like to think I’m a bad ass, that I’m exceptional. I think I’m good at what I do. I work hard; I always have. I think that I’ve benefitted from good mentoring, from good counseling, from occasionally affirmative action to just give me a much needed chance to show my work and from extensive hard work.

But the problem with being “exceptional” in this case is that it allows people to justify having a poor view of folks who look just like me. It gives folks an out when they really need to squirm on the hook.

It also puts an enormous amount of pressure on me to live up to the Magic Standard—be everything, do everything and make everyone exceptionally comfortable while doing it.

It’s impossible to do that. Black exceptionalism is not the move. #blackexcellenceistho

So no one who thought we were close enough to post something off the wall and allow it to permeate my newsfeed got a pass this weekend. Nope, not today folks, not today.


As Jesse Williams said, “The thing is though, that just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”



About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted my now adult daughter in 2014, and this blog chronicles my journey. Feel free to contact me at, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©, 2013-2022. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

3 responses to “Black Exceptions

  • Rachel

    I feel you on the FB thing. On the one hand, sometimes I try to keep around people whose views I strongly disagree with, because otherwise it just turns into an echo chamber, and I don’t really think it’s healthy or productive to have a society in which people only ever talk to people who agree with them about everything.

    But on the other hand, sometimes I just can’t, with the casual or not-so-casual racism, the anti-science, the horribly offensive advice dispensed… and I just have to unfollow. My facebook is pretty much just an echo chamber these days, but it’s oh so much less stressful to scroll through.

  • Belladonna Took

    I get this so much. I have a few fairly good friends who are viciously anti-Christian. Seriously, they hate us, and categorize us in the most horrible ways! Now and then they get carried away in front of me and I call them on it and they go, “Oh, I don’t mean YOU – you’re different” … and I want to smack them. Because I’m not actually different. I may not agree with the nasty political rubbish spewed on the fringe, but in terms of what I believe about the power of God, and what that means for me? I am pretty out there. (I wish I could say I just forgive them … but I still ain’t perfect.)

    As for Facebook … ugh. I gave it up more than a year ago but recently went back because things are happening in lives that are important to me, and they don’t have time to keep me personally up to speed. I need to figure out my privacy settings, though, because I get sick of being drenched in other people’s ugly.

  • onewomanschoice

    Good stuff. You communicated this topic very well because it can be tricky. Nowadays subtle racism and systematic racism trumps blatant racism but it does not make it any less real or harmful. We had a “Call to Action” at my church in Dallas after officers shooting. You bet I was going to be there. Our church is prominently white. But we did have a good turnout of diversity for this meeting. I needed to be able to share my voice of real and true experiences as a white mother of mixed race family. Needless to say one of the first comments was about an incident and the speaker ended her comments with, “How about All Lives Matters?” So I got up next to speak. I think I came across strong at first but I needed to be sure that got the picture. I shared a few quotes from MLK on complacency which by the looks of their faces, they hadn’t really heard. What I didn’t say because I didn’t want to piss them off too much (and I certainly do not condone police shooting) is where was the call to action when nine church members were rooflessly shot while at church and all the other senseless shooting by police. My most proud moment of the meeting was a thirteen year old girl who stood up at the mic and spoke her truth. She stated she was mixed race (black/white) and shared some of the things that she has had said to her. That takes courage. Sharing our voice, our experiences, and our stories. This is how change occurs.

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