The last 12 months has been especially terrible for Black Americans. Far too many Black children, women, and men have lost their lives at the hands of ruthless policemen. We have protested, rallied, written, sang, and prayed about countless tragic events in the hopes of one day witnessing an end to what seems to be a mission to see to our erasure. As time drones on, things seem to be getting worse. In fact, the state of affairs is so consistently poor that the acts have gone from random to common, the ugly to the new normal.
When I open the Twitter app on my phone, it serves a few purposes: (1) to distract me from my day with a quick laugh (2) to catch up on world events, and (3) nowadays, it, unfortunately, informs me of the daily acts of terrorism happening to my people. When I turn on the local news, I can find out the weather, sports scores, how many times a celebrity blinked, and see the occasional car chase. When I turn on MSNBC, I can watch a disaffected news anchor give me the sloppy seconds on a story that Twitter broke with more accuracy days prior. What I will never see on the news is the unbiased truth, and I accept that. So, I go online, and I seek it out. Thank God for social media as it provides a transparency that is becoming more and more necessary as the battles against us wages on.
Yesterday, I reached a breaking point. After reading an article from The Atlantic where respected author Ta-Nehisi Coates asked that we turn our attention from Rachel Dolezal to Kalief Browder, the young Black man who recently killed himself after being detained for three years without a trial in Rikers Island, I was through. He was talking apples and oranges. One does not concern the other. We care about Browder. What happened to him is reprehensible and needs to be addressed—and it is. In fact, early yesterday, a last-minute push was made for Kalief’s Law, new legislation that would hold courts accountable for exclusions against the speedy trial clock. This is great news though it is entirely wrong that it took him dying for a change to take effect.
Kalief Browder has nothing to do with the woman figuratively wearing our skin, however. Rachel Dolezal stole our very essence and is being applauded for her efforts. She wore us like a costume on Halloween. She is wearing us like a costume on Halloween. While Coates didn’t defend her, he did dismiss our feelings about the situation, like so many before him have done. We are always dismissed — even when we start the movements, raise the babies, and suffer the abuse. A 14-year-old little girl had the knees of a portly white police officer put on her back in McKinney, Texas, and most of us don’t know her name. It’s Dajerria Becton. Many would argue that bringing her up is apples and oranges as well, but she serves my point. We are being erased from all angles, and we’re supposed to go along silently and allow others to decide what behavior is a problem — or not.
I watched Reagan Gomez-Preston have a Twitter discourse with actor Don Cheadle where she did her best to explain the feelings that Rachel Dolezal conjures up in a lot of us. She laid the misappropriation and the privilege all the way out for him, and I read their back-and-forth discussion with my mouth agape: by the end, he still didn’t get it.
I’m tired. I bet you are, too.
Enough was enough. I could feel my pressure rising so I put the phone away, did some writing, and cooked dinner. After a few hours, thinking maybe things had quieted down, I hopped online to see the latest on my social media timeline.
I clicked on a link, and there were pictures of Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney. I grabbed the remote and turned on the TV to see if there was footage. Nothing. A church shooting with multiple deaths is just not breaking news when you have melanin in your skin.
I read an account that the gunman sat in the church during service, prayed, and then got up and shot at least nine people, eight of whom were pronounced dead at the scene. They arrested a white photographer who fit the shooter’s description and, by his own account, he asked that they be gentle on his camera equipment. They obliged him. Of course, they obliged him, he’s in a position to make a request such as this because being White is synonymous with the benefit of the doubt — just as being Black is akin to being guilty until proven innocent.
If we’re guilty of anything, it’s of being hunted, rejected, and broken. Grand larceny has been committed when it comes to our spirits.
There’s nowhere to go. We aren’t safe in our homes, churches, swimming pools, schools, work, backyards… My eyes watered as I thought of these slain churchgoers sitting down to have a conversation with God and being murdered in the midst of their divine moment. I wept, but I was not shocked, not for one second.
I won’t be shocked when they find the gunman who is alleged to be a young, clean-shaven, White man. My heart won’t miss a beat when he is taken safely into custody as the news cycle kicks in, and the media lauds him as a former straight-A student, a sweet boy with mental issues who once ran a 5k and donated blood. I won’t be shocked when they don’t call him a terrorist. I won’t be shocked that we will be asked to remain peaceful despite the violence being inflicted on us. There will be no #JeSuis hashtag in solidarity. Al Sharpton will descend upon the city and soak in rays of attention. I scoff, but I am never shocked; only weary.
Black lives taken in a state that still proudly displays the Confederate flag calls back to a different time—a time that haunts us ubiquitously. Our past and our present are becoming interchangeable. Every day, I witness the fight for Black women and men to be heard and acknowledged, and for Black lives to matter. Sometimes we fight among ourselves, and sometimes we fight together to help the collective. All we do is fight. It’s numbing.
It’s a lot to handle, so I take a break. I write, I play music, I read, I paint, I try not to let the injustice consume me because it gets dark the deeper you go. I feel guilty that I can tune out when others can’t because of a loss of freedom or a loss of life. Black fatigue is real. I believe we suffer from a distinct form of post-traumatic stress. I know my triggers, and I back away when I feel anxiety and helplessness overtaking me. Like everyone else, I want to believe there will be a time when we are not under attack, but until then I must stay informed, help when I can, and know when to back away from the news because maintaining decent mental health is very important in times like these. It’s basically all I have.