Two Years and Two Months
What does it take for you to change? How much do you have to see? Did you ever think you’d see so much?
If you were born in the USA, if were raised you to believe that you are white, if you never enlisted in the military, did you ever think you’d be haunted by the horrors of war a few neighborhoods away? Did you hear people calling this a war? Do you know which side you’re on?
If you were born in what other people called a “black neighborhood” during a certain period of time, did you know you were marked by the block you were born on? Did you know you were gang-affiliated? Did you hear people say that you’re the reason for your own problems?
Now that you’re an adult, did you know the war is still going? Did you hear about it in college, at work at the office, behind the bar, in the back of the kitchen? It’s loud but have you drowned it out? It’s easy if you never lived near it. So when the shots are fired, do you hear any of it anymore? Are you ever scared?
It’s been more than two years since Erica Garner lost her dad. Eric hustled like anyone in NYC — lots of little side gigs to have enough cash to get by, maybe have fun on the weekends, pay for someone else’s movie ticket, not just your own. Sometimes you can use a little extra cash to remind someone you love them. Small gestures mean a lot. It’s such a nice feeling.
Sometimes you need a little extra cash for life’s little surprises. Like when your car breaks down in the middle of the road. One time, two tires blew in Indiana while moving from Chicago to NY with my last couple hundred dollars. But not before a cop pulled over, hands nowhere near his weapon, with a tire iron offered instead. I was poor, my car broke down, my hands were concealed. I never felt unsafe.
Black men are still being murdered in the years since my car broke down, in the years since Eric Garner asked police to stop harassing him every day. I’ve started going to protests, I work for a black magazine and propose content that, in my mind, would be important to for whites to hear about black America. I look at just how white a bar’s patronage is before I go in, I try to look at who owns a business before I support, I look at where my money goes, who my time goes to, what kind of art I promote and share with friends. More books by women and people of color, more open conversations with friends and (arguably, more importantly) casual acquaintances, no more politely ignoring a racist comment, even if it means that person won’t like me. I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who couldn’t have an honest dialogue about what they’ve said.
I’ve exhausted all of my black friends with my words and feelings. They’re eight times as exhausted. They’re worrying about explosions of racism, murdering police, being mistreated at work and here I am asking for help in how to feel. Is it possible to help?
It keeps happening. If you’re outraged, have you done anything different? There’s some kind of war going on — did you see? Old guys at the VFW will tell you the definition of insanity is making the same mistakes and hoping for different results. Are you at least making different mistakes? We need to at least be willing to make different mistakes. This is insanity.
Are you trying to do something different? Please do something different. What are you afraid of?