There’s a familiar promise embedded in my head: You can become anything.
Parents, teachers, pastors, graduation speakers, and even melodically-gifted Sesame Street muppet characters repeated that promise to me when I was a child. But as a Black kid growing up in Oklahoma, I’d also hear another refrain, one that rebuffed “proper English”: We can’t have nothing. I knew I’d spend my life balancing the promise of endless possibility for personal achievement with the reality that Black folk in America can’t seem to have anything — or at least, we can’t have anything permanently.
My parents and grandparents came to America in the 1960s and ’70s from Jamaica.