Hashtags And Coffee
Mornings in America these days it seems, come as mourning for
one part as opposed to the other. If you are Black or Brown, you
cannot help but shake the feeling that the next rising of the sun
could be just another pallbearer. Such is the feeling that arrives
as you pick up your phone or the morning paper and read of yet
another person dying at the hands of the police under dubious
circumstances. Sometimes, multiple people.
These stolen lives are named on social media through hashtags, joining together many of color who are outraged…and weary. The latest names added to this lengthy list are Terence Crutcher of Tulsa, Oklahoma who was gunned down without pause by Officer Betty Shelby who responded to his stalled vehicle on the road, and Keith Scott of Charlotte, North Carolina. He was shot and killed by an officer who mistook him for another suspect as he sat in his car.
These two, and how they died, have added to what has been a bitter
meal for many households in the United States. And have been for
decades, and centuries if one digs deeper into the history past the
neutered textbooks and lesson plans.
It also seems to be a meal of a different sort for that particular
mass of Americans who always show themselves as these hashtags
pop up on social media. The virulent, vicious lot who rise just to
defend anti-Blackness and white supremacy by immediately
looking to taint the victim with an overt air of criminality or to
reinforce narratives. They go hand in hand with those who choose
the path of not engaging, their silence in effect becoming violence.
And as much as there are political leanings that can be attached
to this group in a partisan sense thanks to the current Presidential
election season, it has always been more complex than that. In
some ways, you felt shielded in part from that — until social media
made things more visible and in turn, made the ugliness and the
indifference of those who you may know more visible as well.
And that’s a part of the underlying bitterness and anger when
these things happen. You have to deal with your own reactions
and keep them in check once you get into the office. In some
cases, you may feel the need to stifle anger once you get online
depending on who you befriend or your choice of social media
platform. You will and have witnessed co-workers, people who
you have broken bread with or shared a drink with, those who have
clicked “like” on a random post about an ‘80’s movie go THERE.
And not in a congenial matter of casual disagreement, either. No,
they’ll go and espouse opinions you wouldn’t have suspected they
had. Or they will become partisan parrots who will usually throw in a
talking point they’ve heard repeated over and over again. Or share
a meme that may be particularly incendiary. Depending on the
field you work in, you may find that mornings after these incidents
are the worst as a person of color because you may be the only
point of reference some in your office have to a culture that is
highly different from their own that’s not something on a Seamless
menu or a description of an item on Overstock. I’ve been on the
phone with one or two friends that struggled after the recent killing
of Alton Sterling via text who were trying to stifle their feelings in
the office because there is always one person who falls into the
group I just mentioned above who has to be dismissive. These
incidents can increase your isolation and further racial trauma.
That trauma also is why you witness a strong push among
communities of color to not share the videos of these deaths widely
going hand in hand with encouraging self-care.
It’s gotten more necessary in the past few years. It’s gotten more
necessary because it is a buffer against the screeching of those who demonstrate that they do not care. Those who claim they want a
conversation but only want to dictate to you how you should feel.
And that is going to cause damage, in some way or another. I
don’t care who you are. Look at Jackie Robinson. By the time that
man was done playing baseball, his hair went snow white and he
struggled with diabetes and the beginnings of heart issues. It’s
not wild to make the connection between his having to endure
the consistent heaps of racial abuse and internalization in order
to integrate Major League Baseball and it having grave effects on
his health. There are moments where I have to take a mental
break because of these killings and the aftermath which reveals
the coven of cowardly racists and their apologists. This is what
many of us deal with. And that same barrel of deplorables will
become more sadistic, as we’ve seen in the wake of the deaths
of Black and Brown men, women and even children. If you have
dealt with this, I can only say that I’m with you and what little
I have in my emotional storehouse in the wake of these things,
I hope you’ll have more of. Get that quiet time. Go offline if you
need to. Find some relaxation, ease the stress however you can.
Ignore those who want to only provoke you and be nasty. Accept
the help of those allies who are willing to listen above all and do
the work on themselves & those around them. Invoke your right
So yes, I sometimes get weary of the parade of hashtags that go
with my morning coffee. I get upset at the disgrace of police
brutality. I get tired of having to have the stoic demeanor, to
endure the tragedy with these deaths that seem unceasing. It
is draining. And it is unsettling and hurtful to know that there
are those that don’t give a damn as to why.
With that, I finish my coffee, and prepare for another day hoping
the taste of dealing with these circumstances will recede with
each breath that courses through my lungs.
If only a little.