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“Being Black in America”

by Tieranny Woods

As I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across this post, “Black doctor says Delta Air Lines staff didn’t believe she is a doctor during in flight medical emergency.”  This black woman, physician noted that during her flight, a flight attendant refused to believe she was a doctor, and refused to allow her to aid a man who became unresponsive during the flight.  The flight attendant questioned her qualifications and demanded her credentials, and the doctor had to basically demand to aid the unresponsive man.  This is just one instance of what it means to be black in America.

Being black in America is something I am very aware of.  If it is not obvious, I am black woman, unapologetically.  And two, I live in America where I have to face the everyday injustices that occur against my people and other people of color.  The injustices of today have deep historical root in the past blatant and systematic injustices of our country.  Growing up in Memphis, I was always aware of racism, though it was further removed.  Because Memphis is majority black, I grew up in majority black environments (school, church, etc.). I never had to feel out of place due to my race, but still became very much aware of my blackness.

Going to Vanderbilt University was a different experience.  I became very much aware of my blackness in reference to whiteness, and grasped a better understanding of what it means to be black in a society that does not truly accepts us.  So when I took a look at Ashley Mintz’s art exhibit, the images resonated with me in ways that a white person examining the same art work would not understand.

Ashley Mintz’s exhibit “Being Black in America,” gives an artistic representation of past and present views of what blackness is in this country.   She depicts her art through different mediums and textures, presenting blackness and black bodies in a way that paints a vivid picture of emotions and realizations.  The exhibit has different sections: Black Bodies as Strange and Different, Black Bodies as Disposable, Black Bodies as Money and Entertainment.  There is a section entitled “Media as a Distraction” and a smaller section showing the actions of black moms past and present.  Two sections stand out to me the most:  Blacks as Invisible and Blacks as Human.  I feel that oftentimes, the feelings of black people and the real life experiences that we face on a daily basis are rendered invisible, and I feel the artwork did a great job not only depicting this invisibility, but depicting the emotional turmoil placed on blacks by being rendered invisible.  The Blacks as Human section gives us an identity to who we are as a people and places the heart back into our being.  We are not who America makes us out to be. We are beautiful, and we have our own minds and visions.

Being black in America can be daunting, but yet something that I would not change for the world.  Our culture, our heritage, our history, encompasses so much pain, but at the same time, so much soul, and so much beauty, and Ashley Mintz’s exhibit “Being Black in America,” encompasses just that.

Tieranny Woods-4-ZF-5574-08444-1-001-004Tieranny Woods is a 2016 graduate of Vanderbilt University. She is currently a Belle H. Bennett fellow at Scarritt Bennett Center where she is exploring social justice at the Tennessee Justice Center.