This is a guest post from my friend Terry. We’ve known each other for a few years now and have a kind of connection that is rare. We both believe in spreading kindness, empathy and hope as much as possible and I value his point of view enormously. I believe you will come away from this moved and with maybe a bit more understanding. Where my life experience fails me, Terry has the experience and the words to back it up. I’m hard pressed to find a much better human than Terry. He never stops trying and hoping and working for a better experience for himself and those around him. He’s made me a better human. You’ll see. His words are important.
Forgive me for my scattered thoughts. I am penning this through the fog of anger and sadness. Forgive my bitterness and shortsightedness. But, you have to start at the foundation to build. I’m trying to erect an effigy to my entanglement. I’m enraptured with this American way and it will be the death of me. I speak of me in the broadest sense b/c ‘Me’ is every black or brown face you see. You may not realize this but, I’ve encountered almost every conceivable form of racism and up until today it hasn’t done much to scratch the veneer of my resolution. Sure, I’ve had the overt ‘You black monkey’ or the ever-popular ‘Nigger!’ (it’s okay to read it, you guys). But, today it almost broke me. Today, I saw a headline and it spun me counterclockwise 300+ yrs. Every history book and city stoop conversation. The countless unsaid -but clearly conveyed- words lobbed my direction for something I have no control over. It rushed through me with all the violence and velocity of a bullet (not so coincidentally). Even through all this, I love so many people different from me in a very unimaginable way.
But, why should I? Shouldn’t I turn this inward anger outward and spew vitriol and use whatever mental ammunition I have at my disposal to shear through the weak and thinly constructed egos of people denying this tragedies impact? I should. But, I won’t b/c it’s a choice. Let that sword lie in the hands of a more capable person. I choose to tell you how I feel. So, the above has been a very very long winded warning; You ask yourself (‘yourself’ is me) – am I not important?
Do I not appear as a blip on a radar of your consciousness?
When you see a bunch of kids playing in the street and one of them looks like me do your maternal/paternal instincts reflexively oscillate your head for unknown danger?
Do you know that I’ve had people cross the street, leave elevators and threaten me with pepper spray b/c I was ‘too close’ ? Yeah.
If you’re me and you see the dozens of black bodies and the mountains of detractors that differ so greatly from their visage aren’t you REALLY incensed?
Does a shiver not pass from your toes and pass through every central nerve and strike that very tender part of you ?
I spent most of my day fighting back tears. I’m not a crier. I’ve endured a lot in 36 years, but watching a man getting his life so coldly taken and then watching his son utterly gutted by it was just TOO much. I’ve been to funerals for young men and women who were a reminder of what it means to be poor and the audacity to be born black as well. This is not that. I won’t go into how we see police ‘where I’m from’ but I will tell you that every time I see a police car, hear police sirens or even glimpse those white-block letters, my stomach knots up. B/c I know what it feels like to be detained, hit and demeaned. I just can’t imagine how terrified that man was knowing he’d never see his family again. I wonder if those officers gave that a thought after looking at his lifeless body. No amount of ‘you should’ve done ____ ‘ – will fix it b/c he is DEAD. If you can’t see another human lying there who was only trying to live the best way he knew how then I cannot help you. If your metric of whether or not someone deserves to be murdered is if they’ve never committed a crime or made any ‘threatening gestures’ to law enforcement then, I cannot help you. Hell,I don’t know if I can help myself but, I can use my sense of humanity and outright stubbornness to try to convey what it means to be black in this country to you.
I want you to do something for me. While I sit here – stewing in my anger, confusion and mourning of ANOTHER black face lain in the street for little more than being alive. I want you to learn something about someone different from you and teach THAT thing to someone you care about and you must make them promise to do the same. It’s my hope that if you undo just a little ignorance in the mind of someone feeling disenfranchised or alone/left out it might unravel that tightly woven knot that sometimes lands squarely on the chest of an undeserving father of 5.
I don’t have the words to say how – even though I’m educated, without a criminal record, try to do charity and treat people with love and respect EVERYDAY I know that I’m SIXTY times more likely to be gunned down or imprisoned. Or how I’m targeted a threat or something less than human by quite a lot of people. I do have the words to say that I’m bent and not broken. I can be reshaped and reformed. I can be galvanized and made straight. I’ve done it after heart-rending tragedy before and I’ll do it again. B/c I want people to see what love looks like when it’s a choice. Nothing will ever come easy and those of us endowed with the ability need to USE it. If you see ‘Me’ in trouble I want you to speak up and don’t let anyone around you marginalize, demonize or diminish the struggle. It’s the struggle for our species b/c believe me when I say, we need ALL of us if we’re going to make it.
I’m angry but, I’m still here. Stand with me.
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