I Googled “how to survive a lynching?”. Fear got the best of me. I saw the James Cameron story. I read nothing reminiscent of a survival guide.
The gist includes three Black teens being lynched by a white mob in a Great Depression era Wisconsin. Fifteen thousand White people — including women and children — descended upon the town of Marion to take justice into their hands. Three went up. Two passed on. One lived to tell the story.
Three important points include the county sheriff allowing the lynching, the mayor leaving town, and the national guard not being alerted. Despite local Black leaders trying to protect the young men, the mob of “justice” wanted their necks.
Ninety years later, it has been publicly displayed that the justice system still wants our necks.
I’m black and will always be black. My experiences, while often invalidated, are not something that I can avoid or forget. As a result, I’m hopeless and afraid.
The seeds were sown almost twenty-two years ago. The death of James Byrd Jr. — a middle-aged Black man — happened about seventy miles from my hometown, Beaumont, TX. He was offered a ride by a White acquaintance, only to be beaten, pissed on, and dragged three miles on a dirt road. Several years later, in the town of the murder, I played in organized baseball games. To say I was shook would be an understatement.
I was coached to present, act and think a certain way. Even with that, I knew that my life could be in jeopardy because of my skin color. I took it upon myself to expand my cultural horizons. My hope was that I could show some white people that their generalizations were harmful. Even with that, they lazily wrote me off as an exception — avoiding the discomfort of guilt — without challenging their pre-existing stereotypes. I even ate my fruits of the Holy Spirit. I was patient and kind during race conversations with White people, because I just wanted them to listen. Even with that, they took what I said and kept it moving without a trace of change.
The feelings of an eight-year-old Black boy were reinforced the more I had these experiences, the more history I learned, and the more I saw how little Black lives mattered to the police.
Since learning about AHMAUD ARBERY, BREONNA TAYLOR, and GEORGE FLOYD; I have been fluctuating between depression and anger. Assuming that these are to be viewed as stages of grief, am I supposed to accept that you are showing up to the party late? Am I supposed to accept that you will not be able to sit with this discomfort for the rest of your lives? Am I supposed to accept that things will never change?
Here’s the thing…
I tell myself to persevere. Trust me, I have and I am better for it. But damn, it’s time to share that burden with you. Sit with that queasiness, instead of being impromptu performance artists by posting black boxes, speaking out to and for your Black friends, and/or showing up to protests. Also, don’t assume that Black people will be as motivated to perform for something that has been disregarded for years.
There are many things that I think about before attending a protest. The uncertainty of paid instigators inciting chaos is unsettling. Moreover, I am apprehensive — and baffled — because the police are using brutality amidst a stance against police brutality. I take all this in with the context of my Blackness. The end result is paralysis by fear. The weight I experience daily is a new sensation for some non-Black people.
Furthermore, the idea of being next to and around non-Black people that have galvanized makes my gut wrench. I live in Austin, TX; a city that is proud of it’s social consciousness until we bring up things like gentrification. Exalting diversity and inclusion, Austin doesn’t seem to really know what that means. Diversity means receiving an invite to the party. Inclusion is being invited to dance. Based on my experiences, I have witnessed many missed opportunities for D&I to be put into action.
That’s not even mentioning the daily microaggressions I receive from non-Black acquaintances, whether avoidance or invalidation, especially when I’m being friendly. This never sits well with me, so what assurance do I have that non-Black Austinites will protect me from harm, if they are perpetuating oppression through microaggressions?
I have even received microaggressions from non-Black people in my life. It’s painful to see those same people post pictures of protesting, prefacing with white privilege, while asserting awareness, seemingly signing social contracts of change. Suddenly down the for the cause, arrives the non-Black saviors to stand as allies.
Was my voice not effective enough for you to change beforehand? Was I too patient, too eloquent, too reasonable for you to realize the magnitude? Or was I a fool to think I had a voice?
Most likely not, yet here we are.
I am exhausted.
I can’t keep bringing white horses to black water. The information has been there for years. The growth opportunities have been there for years. The comfort that I have provided has been there for years. All I saw was an avoidance of taking ownership. There must be a reason why character preservation is more important than acknowledging racism and living with that discomfort.
I live with the discomfort of racism every day. While mines may come from rhyme, there is no reason that life should be like this. I’m sure it’s hard to not know what to say, to not know what to do; well, I don’t care. I have been saying and doing the right stuff for years; but I’m Black, so there may be a time when that’s not enough and I’m murdered in cold blood.
Until my Blackness is respected and treated with equity in all institutions — justice, healthcare, education, housing, banking — it will not be enough for there to be reactionary changes simply because it’s “The Right Time”.
I am beyond having a conversation. Putting the onus on me is like trying to condense the Black experience down into a support group pamphlet. Life is not fair, but if things are going to change, then I can’t keep starting the same conversation, expecting change.
So, as it relates to race relations, I will be oscillating between fear, anger, depression, and hopelessness.
My feelings will remain until non-Black people realize that defending their character has stifled — and will continue to stifle — change. My feelings will remain until every non-Black person can adequately identify their contributions to racism and systemic oppression. My feelings will remain until these reactionary changes are sustained.
Do I think that any of this will happen? Of course not, so I posted black boxes to demonstrate (1) how empty I feel and (2) how empty all your promises, words and actions are.