Photo by Lorie Shaull
It is difficult to be a black man in a country where black people are killed because they are black, where police officers seem to think they have the right to kill them, because they have gotten away with it for so long. It makes more black deaths inevitable.
I am online watching the news about the death of George Floyd, another black men killed by a police officer during an arrest. And, I am feeling the usual tangle of emotions that usually keep me from writing or talking about incidents like these. But, I am going to try to work through how I feel, here, quickly.
Anger. I call it anger, but it’s rage. I understand the protests, the burning, even the looting. It’s rage. Frustrated rage. Frustration at being unable to clear this hurdle – the police violence hurdle, the dead-unarmed-man hurdle – despite all our efforts, despite all the dead people. The bodies haven’t stacked up high enough for people to be ready to put a stop to this.
Restraint. But, even as the anger blooms into actual rage, towards wanting to act, wanting others to act, wanting something explosive to happen, I feel myself, my personality, my age, my wisdom, and my emotional maturity preaching against it, trying to push the rage down, cautioning me against any sudden action, any angry words. I want to rant and…and I am stuffing it at the same time, moderating it, modulating it, trying to absorb, and address, the killing of my race in a civilized way, like a responsible citizen.
Detached. The police killing black people, killing unarmed black people, has become so common, it still occurs with such regularity, that I’m getting used to it. It is like hearing about another mass shooting. It comes as no surprise. I am not shocked, anymore. Cutting off someone’s air, while they yell, “I can’t breathe.” Not surprising. Another black person killed by the police. Commonplace.
Weary. There is a long history of black people dying at the hands of law enforcement, and it is connected to bigotry and racism in the United States so securely that the two are seemingly inseparable. When a new killing occurs, it is almost impossible to know if it is racially-motivated. So, they always feel like racial killings, like another lynching, like another black man chased through the streets by white people, and murdered, because of his skin color. The burden of it is so tiresome, so tiring.
Sadness. Underneath all is this decades-old sadness, this omnipresent sadness that I push down, push aside, every time I hear about, see, or read about dead blacks. My mind flicks away from the grief, from other people’s grief as quickly as possible, every time because acknowledging the loss, the pain, the vacancy, the terror, the shock, the rend in people’s lives is draining and… Empathy is easy, too easy sometimes, and, if I’m not careful, I feel the grief and despair of family, friends, of the black community, unexpectedly, and the pressure of my own repressed emotions. And, I am in a hateful mood for days afterwards.
George Floyd shouldn’t be dead and in a decent society, he wouldn’t be dead.