Anti-Blackness Thrives in Silence: Reflections of a Former Black Goth Girl [Part 1] by Terris Carter

Art by Hunni

Is Black Lives Matter doing more harm than good? The question unsettled me and shook my foundation. Could warning young black children about police brutality, colorism, microaggressions, poor outcomes in health care, and all the other discrimination they may face hinder them? Did this young white man playing devil's advocate know more about racism and how to fight it then the millions of Black people whose lived experience said otherwise??

I recently had an interesting conversation with a [white cis] man about race and gender roles. He and I had many conversations in the past where we respectfully challenged each other's principles and compared stories about being involved in sports. However, this particular conversation was one of the few times where I was rocked to the core. My mind has been churning ever since. I've been attempting to unpack all the feelings and examine the conversation from various angles. The question itself didn't bother me, but it led to some serious soul-searching about the role of anti-blackness in my own life.

Is Black Lives Matter doing more harm than good? he asked casually. Immediately, I wanted to shut down and say NO! Absolutely not! How could you even ask such a thing? All the examples of discrimination against Black people surged to the front of my mind. I think he could see the storm in my eyes, because he quickly added, "Of course BLM, of course, they do, of course, slavery and racism are wrong. But is the way they're presenting the information detrimental?"

Kaden Pagani, 8, left, and his brother Kingston, 6, carry signs as they
march down Broadway towards Frank Ozawa Plaza during a
Black Lives Matterprotest in Oakland, CA Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Could warning young black children about police brutality, colorism, microaggressions, 
poor outcomes in health care, and all the other discrimination they may face hinder them? Could this information dishearten them? Will they feel hopeless, and will these feelings of hopelessness cause gifted children to give up? Will they even attempt to overcome these seemingly insurmountable barriers? Are we shoving helplessness down their throats? Are we shoving anger and resentment towards their white counterparts? Could this knowledge fuel more civil unrest for generations to come?

The short answer is no. For too long, we have pretended that desegregation happened, racism ended, and now black and white people are equal. MLK died for us, he wanted us to be peaceful *insert MLK quote about peace*. Nevermind that he was assassinated and generally hated while he was alive. "Keeping the peace" is the message that has been jammed down our throats. Things are better now, so let's not rock any boats. However, it was this narrative, this lack of discussion that led to instances of me not recognizing racism.

Art by Hunni
Flashback to 2004. I am a sophomore in high school. A white so-called friend of mine called another black kid a n****r, in front of me. I was a 
strange goth kid in high school, so were my friends, so we were used to being taunted. There were only three of us, me and my two friends. In defense of this playground bully, we were probably doing weird shit - the weather was probably very warm and sunny, we were all wearing black, and I probably had on Tripp pants that were ragged at the bottom from dragging against the sidewalk and floor as I walked. My friend used to wear a black trench coat, and to top it off we used to hang in cemeteries. Weird shit was happening. 

Art by Hunni
At the time I was mad at the kid for 
bothering us too, my friend's response rooted me to the spot, my blood went cold, my face felt hot, my heart pounded. He saw my reaction, "Not you, you're one of the good ones." My heart slowed down a bit, my face cooled but a ball of discomfort sat in my belly. There was a lump in my throat, we moved on. I can't remember what we talked about as my mind swirled. I didn't know where to begin to sort through my feelings, confusion, hurt, sadness. So, unfortunately, I accepted that - I mean, how could he be racist if he was my friend? I buried the incident and all the feelings that came along with it.

Little Terris and Her Dad, circa 1996
Flashback even further to the 1990s. As a kid, I was acutely aware that I was a bit of an outcast. I was always reading - and when I 
wasn't reading I was watching anime (which wasn't at all common at the time). I read the novel adaptations to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I read almost anything I could get my hands on. I didn't fit in with the kids around me, I "talked white," and on any given day I preferred being inside the house. I didn't want to go to the park or jump rope or whatever it was. I didn't like all the music they listened to. I had friends in middle school but not many, the friend I was closest to didn't live near me. The school I was in was supposedly for smarter kids.

Terris in All Her Goth Glory, circa 2005
When I got into high school, another so-called school for smart kids, I found my niche. A 
girl - who remains one of my closest friends to this day - decided she liked me although I was
always scowling, sarcastic, and stand-offish. She introduced me to bands like Evanescence, System of a Down, and Linkin Park. I finally found music I loved! For reasons I won't disclose now, I left that high school and moved to another one. I no longer just felt like an outcast, I looked like one. If I didn't fit in with the goth kids, who did I fit in with? I was even deeper now, listening to Cradle of Filth, Slipknot, and Marilyn Manson. I read Anne Rice novels like any good goth kid.

Art by Hunni
Flash forward to that ugly 2004 episode. This wasn't the first time I had heard statements like those from white peers and 
"friends," however, it was the first time I had heard that hard *er in real life. It wasn't until years later that I was like hey….that guy WAS racist. It was then that I realized I had internalized this anti-black message. Back then I was also desperately trying to figure out who I was - someone calling me different or unique was what I strived for. Yes! I was seen! But its went even deeper than that. When I was younger my hair was much longer than it is now and curly. People praised my hair and lighter skin - Was I part Indian? Was I mixed? Is that why I "talked white? Somewhere along the way, I got the impression that it wasn't ok to be black, or rather it was ok to be black if you acted a certain way.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Anti-Blackness Thrives in Silence: Reflections of a Former Black Goth Girl, coming this Friday, 2/12!

Terris is a proud nerd, practitioner of Muay Thai, friend, caregiver, and amateur writer living in Philadelphia. All photographs of her in this post are used with her permission. This is her second piece for PEB. Fighting That Bitch Depression was her first.

All the awesome artwork in this post by Hunni, with her permission. Hunni is an illustrator who loves working with pastels and soft neons. She will soon be releasing merch to further push diversity in alt fashion spaces. 
Follow her on IG @itshunnib and sign up for her mailing list!