It’s not meant for your comfort…
The past week has been a never ending spiral. I type and erase, I re-type and re-erase. I sit at my keyboard for hours debating what I should say, if there’s something for me to say, or if people are ready for me to be less filtered. I wonder, what is this post for, who is it for, and will it be heard or will it be co-opted and diluted? As I’ve learned watching the activists that inspire me spar in the Twitter-sphere, reception to advocacy is often times contingent on it being comfortable for the listener, so in the end I close my computer, irate at my inability to formulate words, and restart the process, day after day. It’s a cycle of monotony predicated on my fear of not being heard, my fear of throwing away the carefully curated persona of my social media feed, but more importantly my fear of not being true to myself in what I want you to read. So many people have been reaching out to their closest black friends, asking how we feel, asking what they can do, or apologizing for the state of this country. I can’t speak for everyone but the best I can do is give my thoughts.
I’m agitated, I’m angry, I’m filled with despair. This isn’t some feel good post about how I’m inspired that everyone is posting about George Floyd, honoring another black man taken much too soon at the hands of the state. There’s enough of that going around right now, enough people feeling good about themselves because they’ve “joined the fight.” The same people I’ve sat across from in class and in locker rooms complaining that I always make things about race, that I’m too serious all the time or, worse, that I’m being dramatic, are the ones all the sudden posting about how awful or surprising this is. It’s hard to take when I’ve spent countless hours defending Trayvon’s humanity, as if my own, or reminding people that Tamir Rice was a twelve year old boy caricatured into a man, as if that somehow justified his killing. I’ve seen the same people posting tributes to George Floyd changing their tune from when they were denouncing or ignoring Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and Philando Castile, while some were also concurrently voting to uphold a system that perpetuates the climate responsible for their deaths. But even scarier, as Malcolm X warned us of the South being anywhere south of Canada, I’ve seen our “allies” turn their backs on us the second that dismantling systems of oppression meant changing their lives to instill the lasting change we are talking about. I’ve seen too many people, too many times, leverage these tragedies into social capital that they can wear as a badge of honor to assuage their own internalized racism.
I hope I’m wrong and that we, as a nation, are ready to confront the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination in hopes of understanding where we are today. I hope the passion is real, and that my black brothers and sisters can take solace in the fact that we have new people to welcome in the fight, people that will learn, listen and mobilize. I hope that my fellow humans finally mean it this time, that this isn’t a fad, and that out of this terrible tragedy can arise an unrelenting, diverse coalition that will decimate oppressive systems and begin to usher a movement towards racial justice and equity.
But there exists a cynic in me, a cynic that protects me from getting my hopes up, a cynic that reminds me that this will blow over in most minds and we will still be isolated in our fight for human and civil rights. I see your posts and they are heartfelt…I can feel that. But I also remembered some of your posts after Trayvon Martin, after Eric Garner, after Laquan McDonald, after Freddie Gray, and heartfelt as those were, we were abandoned as if the statute of limitations on pursuing racial justice and accountability had expired. There was a minor blip as the verdicts were read, but you had said your piece so it was time to move on and accept society for what it was, a place where blackness was deemed a threat that could cost us our lives. And so I hate the cynic, but the cynic has always been right and the cynic has always protected me.
And so here I remain, in this constant cycle of rage and despair whenever I see the treatment of black bodies by the state that continues to plague our country. James Baldwin reminds us that “to be negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time,” and yet through all this rage I hope that, one day, people will understand that making a change isn’t about using black bodies to feel a part of a social media movement after seeing an emotionally scarring video, but rather a constant journey of decolonizing your minds, listening to black voices, finding organizations to support and putting anti-racists in power. I wait for the day — along with my black brothers and sisters and the allies that have already made the commitment to us, themselves and society — that fighting for racial justice becomes about more than a sporadic tweet that is contradicted by action. In the timeless fight against state sanctioned violence and discrimination, black people have tirelessly believed in the promise of this nation and pushed it to live up to its ideals. It’s time for more people to join this fight — because this fight needs to be about much more than George Floyd.