Updated: May 4, 2021
Getting dressed the morning of January 7th, 2019 was an easy task. I was overly eager and happy to begin my journey in the office of the only Black woman serving in the United States Senate. I arrived to the Capitol smiling and almost 2 hours early. I took my time and wandered through the Hart Building halls with my head somewhere amongst the clouds sulking in the beauty. It was almost as if it were all just a dream. After I wasted about an hour staring at marble floors and old photographs, I decided it was time to make my way to the office that would become a home for me and the other 10 interns for the next 5 months. I walked purposefully in the direction of the Office of Senator Kamala D. Harris with my head held high and my favorite black suit neatly wrapped around my arms and ankles. When I approached the door, there was a family standing in front of the office. They were moved by the tiniest display of patriotism standing warmly in front of the doors welcoming all. There was a neat little sign that said “Dreamers are welcome here.” Directly next to it was the LGBTQ Flag, the California state flag, and the American Flag. A smile twinkled at the corners of my mouth and gratitude rushed over me as I approached the family who were now taking photographs of them with the Little Gold plaque that had the Senators name written. Everyday following, there would be hundreds of families like that one standing outside just to take a picture with the sign labeling the office of their favorite fighter for justice. Every time, just like the very first, I would stand and smile at just how impactful a little brown woman with a big mind was to so many people.
Beginning your first day at work is usually tough. You never know if you can fully be yourself, or how tough the job will actually be. You sit at a computer and receive trainings. They walk you around the buildings, they show you the beauty of the capitol building that was built by your enslaved ancestors, they teach you routes to run errands, show you how to give a tour, and they always warn you about how angry callers are a commodity and will be when you begin answering phones later in the day. But no amount of warnings, or trainings can prepare a black girl for the moment she answers a phone and hears someone call the Senator that she adores, a “N*gger.” There is a moment of disbelief, almost like you can’t believe that someone had time today to demean a woman because of the color of her skin. There’s a sadness the rips through your bones and takes away the earlier banter that played in your head. It wipes away all of your energetic smiles. And there you are, in a professional setting with your suit and makeup and your mind is stuck on the pain endured by your ancestors who paved the way for you to be one of the few black interns in the United States Capitol. “N*ggers shouldn’t sit their dirty behinds on the historic furniture of the capitol. Especially N*gger b****es.”
There were no tears to be shed, only a political awareness to accept. You are a Black woman, who works for a Black woman. Did you really believe that we were at a time in history where this didn't happen? Really? When we have a President who calls neo-nazis and white supremacist “very fine people?” When there are Black boys being shot down in the street simply for wearing their skin? When black girls are denied justice every day? Why have you forgotten? Why are you surprised? So, you feed them the official “We don’t accept that language in this office” line as you hang up and you find a reason to laugh just to keep from crying. Their hate will not remove me from myself..... for I know just how beautiful it is to be black. I hang up the phone and remember to hang onto my joy.