Part of growing up black is being taught from a young age that life will be difficult, that nothing will come easy for you. Its seeing from your everyday lived experience and those of the people around you that being black means living in suffering. It's watching in envy at the little white kids who live a life of innocence, who get to be kids for as long as possible without the burden of adult responsibility. Its watching white kids being raised to become anything they want to be, it's looking at your mother raise them as her own even though you are raising yourself. It's spying on them from a distance while they call your mother by her first name, while you wait in the backroom. It’s being outraged because the little white kids who play around in their tutus and batman capes get to grow up around both their parents and still get to keep your parent as their own.
Black suffering is in the little and the big things. It's walking for miles in shoes with no soles to a subpar public school. It's arriving late, only to be sent back home. It’s being kicked out of school because your grandmother’s grant couldn’t pay your school fees that month. It’s going to school hungry, pretending you’re not hungry at lunch time when other kids eat because you don’t have anything to eat. It's sharing that last slice of bread with your siblings because there is nothing else left to eat, it's washing it down with water to fool your stomach into thinking its full. It's wearing a faded hand-me-down ‘jim dress’ in shoes that are barely holding together in winter with your toes showing at the top. Its mothering your siblings when you’re barely old enough to care for yourself because a disease took your only parent. It's waking up early to clean and get your siblings ready before you go to school, even though you’re only a child yourself.
It’s doing your homework in the dark because spending the little that you have left for the month on electricity is a luxury your family can’t afford. It’s not being able to study because you share a textbook with one other person. It’s missing weeks of school because your public-school teachers are on strike. Black suffering is taking a ‘gap year’ after matric because you can’t afford higher education. It’s getting into University, moving to a city where you don’t know anyone, only to sleep on the library floor, survive on popcorn and not understand half of what the lectures are saying. It’s being too afraid and ashamed to ask for help. It’s trying to survive on a monthly NASFAS stipend and still have enough left to send home. It's falling asleep in class because you were out late working just to make enough to buy textbooks. Its getting kicked out of University because you’re barely passing your classes. It’s being unemployable. Black suffering is giving your body to a man for the promise of financial support. Black suffering is falling pregnant before you’re ready because he accused you of not trusting him when you asked for a condom. He threatened to leave, and so you went along with it. Black suffering is being left with nothing anyway, in the end. Part of growing up black is the threat of this cycle of poverty. It's dying with nothing to your name. Growing up is never catching a break. It's being suspicious when things come easy because nothing was ever that easy for us. Everything came at a cost. It's waiting for a series of bad things to happen because one good thing happened. Success for a Black child is a victory earned through suffering. Success for a white child is expected, it’s their destiny!