I was 20 when I applied to go on Sankofa—to be one of the 40+ students who would get on a bus for three days and travel to the South for a deeper dive into the racial history of our country, focusing on the black experience. When asked in my interview why I wanted to go, I remember saying, “I want to do more than smile at black people when I see them on the street.”
They let me come on the trip despite my answer. Or maybe because of it.
Looking back, I cringe at that answer. But I also remember genuinely feeling this need for black strangers on the sidewalk to know that I wasn’t a white person they had to worry about being a racist. Want proof? I’m smiling at you! So nice. Definitely not creepy. Or condescending. “Sorry that African Americans are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of whites. I’ve decided the best course of action against this injustice is to SMILE. Have a great day!”Read More