I didn’t say a prayer before bed last night. Instead of sleep, I was met with bitter tears as I recalled a conversation I once had with my grandmother about the “proper” way to conduct oneself – as a Black woman – around law enforcement, around authorities, around the world in general.

She was a product of the Deep South, during a time when water fountains were separate and racial lines were clear. She had handed these “safety precautions” down to my mother before me, as well. My mother, who was brought up in the tail-end of that time period, sat in the back of the bus and knew to place her head down when a White person passed by.

These are the unwritten rules that have been passed down through generations of Black Americans – stripped of their original identity, language, and faith, once slavery had ended, they were simply thrust into the world and admonished to “figure it out.”

Told to “figure out” how to climb a mountain that’s already been claimed as someone else’s.

Told to “figure out” how to play a hand of spades, armed with nothing more than hearts and diamonds.

Told to “figure out” how to break into a political system that was forced to rewrite itself just to clarify, that we are indeed more than “three-fifths” of a person.

Welcome to America.

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Being Black in America is far more than what can be captured in a think piece or CNN special. It’s the acknowledgement that the skin you were born in is simply not good enough for some.

It’s the acknowledgment that some will clutch their purses tighter, hold their children closer, or form an opinion solely based on the pigmentation that adorns your skin.

It’s the acknowledgement that the media views a White school shooter or serial killer as a “troubled individual,” while a Black victim will be dissected in order to justify that they “deserved” to die.

It’s the acknowledgement that White looting, as shown following the New Hampshire’s annual Pumpkin Festival last month, will be written off as nothing more than the actions of “spirited youth.”

It’s the acknowledgement that “Black on Black” crime will routinely be used as a scapegoat, rather than admit the ugly truth. That Blacks go to jail when they murder one another, while those that murder them may not.

These are the terms that we accept in order to live within the “Land of the Free.” On the condition that we acknowledge that our freedom is not truly the same.

What isn’t acknowledged however, is that all of this is wrong.

The system is wrong. The terms are wrong.

This is one lesson that I wish I didn’t have to deliver to my children, as I do not know how to explain that there really isn’t a way to appear “less threatening,” in an unforgiving world that has already labeled them as such.

For those that automatically view Blacks as thugs, criminals or worse; the clothes upon your back, the car you drive, or the profession you choose will not change this perception.

Welcome to America.