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Courage to Be Me

Terrhonda Hillman
By Terrhonda Hillman

A little over a year ago, I started my own cleaning business.  At the time, I was still working my full-time job, so I was only able to clean houses and businesses nights and weekends.  When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the major shut-down of businesses, I was laid-off from my full-time job.  I was extremely happy because I was able to focus fully on building my business.  During the process, I decided to advertise at a local grocery store on the shopping carts.  I began designing my ad with a graphic artist assigned by the advertising agency.  Every ad presented to me featured an incredibly happy white family.  While the ads were good, something just did not feel right.  I am a black business owner.  Why should my ad be geared towards white people? After careful thought, I chose to use my face on the ad.  Believe it or not, that was a scary thing to do.  I was afraid that people would not support my business because I am black. Black businesses are shunned by many. We have been conditioned to believe that “white is right”.

Lillian Smith, author of Killer’s of a Dream wrote:

“From the day I was born, I began to learn my lessons…we learned the dance that cripples the human spirit, step by step, we who were white and we who were colored…These ceremonials in honor of white supremacy, performed from babyhood, slip from the conscious mind down deep into muscles and glands and become difficult to tear out.”

We have been taught to believe that white is superior.  Blacks have been trained to believe that “White ice is colder”, meaning that if something was created and sold by a white person, it must be better.  I have heard black friends on social media tell of a negative experience when patronizing a black business.  Most are quick to say that they will no longer do business with a black person.  It is astonishing to witness how quick blacks will cancel their own as if they have never had a bad experience with a white business. We have been brainwashed, or should I say whitewashed.

It is long overdue for this false narrative to be abolished. The only way to correct the falsehoods that have been so deeply rooted in our culture is to first acknowledge that there is a problem.  After acknowledgement, there has to be action.  Action must be done repetitiously to reinforce the truth.  Our faces (black faces) and voices (black voices) must be heard.  Black lives indeed matter.  I am making a change in myself to make my face, the color of my skin a normal occurrence in this world.  The steps I take to make a change will make this situation a thing of the past.  Future generations will be able to go further because of the sacrifices, be big or small, that I make.  We all can make a difference.  We all should make a difference to make this world a better place.  I refuse to hide in the shadows behind the smiling faces of white people because of fear of being myself.  I am taking the courageous step to be me.

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