Growing up during the era of colorblind

racism, my father told me that once I got my

first serious job, I should document everything.

It was a phrase that would summarize what it

meant to be Black in America: Document

everything. Even before they stole my food

from the lunch room fridge and spit in my rice.

Even before they reported me for sending a

personal fax and told everyone in the office

how much I made a year when I forgot to peel

my W2’s off the printer glass. Even before they

called me difficult, said I’m hard to work with:

Document everything. He didn't have to explain

white people’s pettiness to me. Didn't have to

hear my fear rattling inside my chest inspired

by the memory of bodycam footage whenever

I came to a full stop next to a police car. Didn’t

have to curse the excuses I made to avoid public

bathroom stalls for fear that they would say

something racist. Didn’t have to take off his

glasses and sigh when the parents at my

daughter’s school—a good school, a white

school—thought they could gather their

administrative clout and weaponize the

principal, teacher’s reports, and witnesses to

destroy me and my child. Didn’t have to shake

his head at me when the same principal

changed Black parent involvement day to

all-family involvement day. Didn’t have to put

on his shoes and jacket and show up to my aid

when I pointed my finger at a room full of

colleagues, hunched over their taupe-colored

guilt and nursing their white privilege with

antiracist book clubs, and asked, Why am I the

only Black face in the room? To which a few

would later huddle together, drawing a salt

circle around themselves, whispering that

my outburst during the meeting had been

“offensive” and “disturbing.” Didn't have to

start the engine nor get his gun because I

became a master documenter over the years:

Every email saved, printed, CCed, BCCed, and

forwarded. Every play and record button ready

to mass-distribute video proof to employers.

Every Black person, a file cabinet, a database,

an archive. But also every Black person,

including your one friend: The knife slit in your

back, the bottle hurled at your riot police, the

fire in your Target, the spill and dream of

looting. From 1619 to the checkout line, there

would be no boat sturdy enough to carry us

safely across this ocean full of whiteness.