• Sarah Margaret Henry

I Will Never Wear Your Skin

I am a cis, white, straight woman. I am marrying a cis, white, straight male.

My fiancé has spent nights rocking me back to sleep because I woke up panicking from a repeated dream of my abusive ex sexually assaulting me.

My fiancé feels me shiver and cringe when I walk down the street alongside wandering eyes of passing men.

My fiancé stays on the phone with me when I walk to my car at night, the fob of my car keys a hilt in my hand as the only protection in the parking lot.

My fiancé will never know what it feels like to be a woman.

He watches, feels, hears me experience my womanhood every day, but he will never know what it feels like to wear my skin.

And I will never know what it feels like to be black.

I am haunted by the statistics, I shudder in rage when I hear my friends tell me what racial slur they got called on the way to my home, I cry when I watch the videos of men and women dying in the streets for breathing while black, I feel my heart drop when my friend tells me teachers refused to learn her name throughout grade school.

My heart can ache, but I will never viscerally understand what its like living in skin that is not mine.

Your heart can soar when you watch astronauts rocket into orbit. Your heart can jump into your throat when you watch someone jump from a plane with nothing but a parachute.

But my heart jumped into my throat when I sat in the front seat alongside my friend when the red and blue lights reflected in her rear-view mirror. She had the audacity to drive while black.

When she stopped the car, she carefully patted her hair, slowly reached over, and pulled her license and registration from the glove compartment. She politely said hello and offered her papers and said yes, sir and apologized when he asked if she knew she was driving nine miles above the speed limit in a 25.

He took her papers back to the car and we sat quietly.

He came back, gave her a paper warning, and said we could leave.

I later deleted that four minute and thirty-three second, almost silent recording on my phone. It was too haunting.

She told me she was glad I was in the car. I “gave her street cred.” She said it with a smile, but my body still felt un-rooted and transient. I don't remember what I said back.

Our ten-minute trip to feed dogs she was sitting taught me — in ways articles and anecdotes couldn’t — how quickly her state of normal could become potentially lethal.

In our case, the officer was perfunctory, quick, and said no more than a few words to us. It was a smooth transaction.

But I could just as easily had a front-row seat to my best friend becoming a statistic.

I still have no idea what it feels like to live in America while black, just like my partner has no idea what it feels like to walk home alone at night as a woman.

That's why my voice, thoughts, and opinions on these issues are significantly less valuable than my black neighbor. That's why I listen.

And that's why I speak, because our culture does not recognize the value of my neighbor's voice, opting instead to privilege mine.

I speak because our work is far from over.

And we will never be there, not until getting pulled over with a friend for a little speeding is no longer an event powerful enough to change the way you see the world.


Inaction was never an option.

With your money, donate, if you are able, to:

With your words:

  • Don't say All Lives Matter. They do. But for that to be true, black lives need to matter, too. Don't change the subject.

  • Use your privilege to speak up for justice.

  • Call your representatives. Tell them you've had enough.

  • Have the hard conversations with your kids.

  • Have the hard conversations with your parents, aunts, uncles, peers, friends, church members, and loved ones.

With your time:

  • Read books by black authors.

  • Educate yourself on the structural disparities in the health, justice, and education systems.

  • Enjoy art and entertainment that values and centers on black lives, preferably created, directed, or written by black voices.

  • Shop at black-owned stores.

With your ears:

  • Listen to black voices. Because they are the voices we need to amplify.

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