“Are you ok?”
“What are you feeling?”
These are the messages that have been ringing in my phone nonstop for the last week. Messages sent from friends who have become suddenly aware of the fact that racism is not just something we read about in school or see on TV. Messages sent from acquaintances who are burdened with a pang of guilt because they are learning that being black in America bears a weight that they never knew we had to carry. Messages sent from people confirming that what they are seeing on the news has even affected their own personal black friend. My first thought after reading these messages…any one of these three phrases would have saved George Floyd.
“Are you ok?”
I read it over and over. Am I ok? I think so. I’m fine. I’m fine because this is not new. I’m fine because my entire life I’ve been acutely aware of the way black people are treated in this country. I’m fine because at a very young age I was taught about racism through experience. Racism means that the word “fair” doesn’t apply to me. Racism is the woman that makes a wrong turn on purpose if I walk behind her more than a block. Racism is the person who says I don’t act black because I enunciate my words and I smile a lot. Racism is going to a soccer tournament out-of-town and being refused service at an empty restaurant because they are “full”. Racism is the cop that used one hand to rip my car door open and put his other hand on his trigger because I said my window was busted and wouldn’t roll down. Racism is the whispered word that falls out of someone’s mouth and hits me like a truck, but when I look around, it’s as if nobody else has heard it. Racism is the enemy that has so intricately weaved itself into our society that it has become a topic you can argue—the ghost that haunts us, but we pretend doesn’t exist. Am I ok? I hope so. Maybe I’m not.
“What are you feeling?”
What am I feeling? I’m feeling tired. Tired of white people trying to explain to ME what it means to be black. Tired of sympathetic questions that are proven disingenuous. Tired of being the outlet people go to as they convince themselves that they aren’t in need of growth. Tired of seeing people like me dying and knowing I could be next. Tired of being pulled over in my car for a “3 Second Violation” and being interrogated about the origins of my relationship with my passenger. Tired of having to be the calm one because the people in blue with the deadly weapons fear ME. Tired of being hyperaware of my clothes, my actions, and my posture just so that I can be palatable to the majority that would so easily label me as a THUG with one wrong step. Tired of people somehow being shocked when innocent black people die even though it has been happening for longer than any of us have been alive. I’m tired of the deaths of black people being just a trend. Make this movement last. Make this be more. Make this be the one that makes substantial change.
Don’t be sorry. Be impassioned. Be brave. Be with me…because I AM NOT YOUR ENEMY. My life matters. Black lives matter. This fight against racism started centuries ago, and it will be fought in our streets, in our homes and in our hearts for years to come. We’ve still got a long way to go.
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles. Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But, conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.