Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, was—among other things—many Americans’ introduction to Amanda Gorman, the young poet who captured national attention with her reading of her work “The Hill We Climb” during the inauguration ceremony. As anyone who’s read it—or, especially, heard Gorman read it—”The Hill We Climb” is both inspirational and aspirational, painting a picture of America as a country capable of becoming a place of equality and greatness, if, as Gorman writes,
“Only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Which is just part of what makes it dispiriting, depressing, but not surprising to see Gorman also be forced to talk on social media about the less positive, and more painful, sides of what life is like as a young Black woman in America. Specifically, she opened up on Twitter this week about an incident of racial profiling that was committed against her, when a security guard near the Los Angeles building where she lives tailed her, informed her that she looked “suspicious,” and demanded to know if she was supposed to be there. (At the apartment building where she lives.) When Gorman showed him her keys, the guard departed with no apology, apparently content in the knowledge of a job well done. Not an exceptionally rare incident in America…which is pretty much the point.
In her writing about the incident, Gorman highlights the irony of being held up as an “icon” one day, while still being racially profiled by those who see Black skin as a signifier of “suspicion” the next. Speaking with what is becoming signature passion and force , she issued a reminder that America is, for all its potential, still climbing said hill, and not anywhere close to the top as of yet—while still maintaining a message of positivity nevertheless: