To Absorb or to Ignore

by Amber Chapman


I wake up everyday in a community that I was not raised in. I observe the ideas of my peers that race has become the rooting question in every class room and every piece of social media. Are the minority speaking for a new revolution, a demand? Not for new laws or new entitlements, but TO BE SEEN, TO TEACH THE HISTORY AND STATS, TO MAKE THE WORLD EMPATHIZE WITH OUR EXPERIENCE.  As a result, the minority is aware of injustices, the minority will see a black person as a human with a certain experience…not as a criminal, not as a “African American” who made out of poverty, not as a statistic. Sometimes I want to scream and tell people to awaken and be more self aware. It’s crazy because I have never felt the pain of race until I was a identified “black body against white walls.” Rankine describes this as “What does a victorious or defeated black woman’s body in a historically white space look like?” The white walls of Ann Arbor, soon the white walls of a educational institution. That both don’t expect me to succeed. How can you not question your experience, question this world that pushes people against white walls in a white society. My question is when placed against the white walls of society how do you express or explain yourself, do you withhold your culture or unapologetically be you.


I challenged my self in my senior seminar, I questioned how can I tell my peers the feeling of watching everything that you do so that you won’t be a stereotype? So that you won’t be placed in a box. Rankine writes “Another friend tells you you have to learn not to absorb the world. She says sometimes she can hear her own voice saying silently to whomever—you are saying this thing and I am not going to accept it. Your friend refuses to carry what doesn’t belong to her.”


To absorb, what is there in the world that Rankine writes should be “learned to not to absorb” it should be ignored and not accepted. I believe absorbing does not always mean making it apart of you or allowing words that don’t “belong” or “apply” to you affect you. I believe that you must absorb so that a stand and an observation can be taken and the “whomever” must hear those silent words. I question why are those words silent.

I find my self in a high rise of those “silent words” I always fall on silent words…seriously you cant some up the oppression of a entire race in every conversation where race is brought up.


What is the experience of being a conscious black person:

Being black is having to explain that saying African American sounds more racist than black because it’s an attempt to being morally correct or trying to defend racist thoughts. I’m just black.

Being black is writing on being black, and trying not to use the word “we” because you want to speak for you race without grouping like the white society does.

Being black is having to be aware of what you watch at white couple’s home when you baby sit because you don’t want to seem “too black”.

Being black is feeling that when your black experience comes out in conversations with other races you limit it what you say.

Being black is being asked is nappy the right terminology for natural hair.

Being black is having to try to keep the present “be” out of your casual conversation with whites… because you can’t say “I be running” without looking uneducated.

Being seen as disrespectful when you don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance or the National anthem, because it wasn’t written for us anyway.

Being black is having to be better then the next white person because you will forever be compared to the “black lazy” stereotype.

Being black means you must be on time for everything or you will be seen as being on CP TIME. (color people time/always late)


What Rankine is saying in the novel is that there are moments when you can remain silent and ask “why do you feel comfortable saying this to me” or correct the ignorance of a society who only knows what is taught in schools and the media.

What happens when blacks in entertainment paint those white walls black, will society “allow” them or fight back? To not fall on silent words.

Recently that white wall has beginning to turn…to a small shade of light grey and America can’t take it. Recent artist that are popular among all races have made a strong black stand and the whites socialist are outraged.

Artists like Kendrick Lamar created the first pro-blackness album in main stream hip hop. His entire album stabs at the “black experience” he writes in his song the blacker the berry:

“You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture

You’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey

You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me

And this is more than confession

I mean I might press the button so you know my discretion

I’m guardin’ my feelin’s, I know that you feel it

You sabotage my community, makin’ a killin’

You made me a killer, emancipation of a real nigga”

What was the response?

Shock…black shock because there was no silence

Shock…because its unknown for an artist to have such an in your face message.

Shock… because the only response is that “you can appreciate the words, without the experience”


[The experience is what the words are trying to give.]

That’s what music can do for you sometimes. It can make you see things differently. Make you want to apply it reality. This powerful message was either “absorbed” or not because people “refuse to carry what doesn’t belong to them”

Kendrick was at his most confrontational and unapologetic in this music and fans like myself. Who is black, cried at the lyrics when they laid upon my ears…because I have never felt such truth then I did in his album.


Should be absorb what is said to us? Or remain silent because we feel like the words being said does not “belong” to us. Or Do we unapologetically correct the world?

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