I will start at the end. All lives will not (really) matter until Black lives Matter. All Lives Matter is like a giant eraser; a thing folx say to remain comfortable at best and neutral at worst while erasing the obvious (Black Lives Matter TOO). Sorta like when you say “love and light” when what you want to say is “you can kiss my tookus”.
Now. The Middle.
It is possible to wake up exhausted. It is possible to be bone weary and worn and be at the bottom of the hill knowing you have a helluva hill to climb. It is possible to see the building burning and look at your hands covered in soot knowing you did not set that fire.
I have talked with you Fab Crew many times about exhaustion. About burnout. About being worn down. I talked about it with you as if it was a by-product of too much work and too much travel while not giving my body time to rest. What I haven’t talked much about is the riptide that pulls me under. The weight of the mountain sized boulder chained to my ankle that I carry (and sometimes drag) behind me as I go about my life.
Homebound for the past 10 weeks while a global pandemic disproportionally affects people of color and rocked my community (literally I live in NYC in of the 6 most affected zip codes), my family (stepfather died from complications from COVID-19) and my house (I was deathly ill with this virus for 2 weeks and then had 4 more weeks of serious symptoms).
None of this feels as heavy or as painful as knowing that right now I could die in my house in my bed. Not by a deadly virus but at the hands of someone who is supposed to protect me from harm. I could die crossing the street, playing with my daughter, while asking for help, driving to the supermarket, sitting in my driveway. I could die from breathing while black and I could die from not being able to breathe because I am black. I am the walking dead. No Zombie apocalypse to try and survive. Just everyday citizen minefields I cross from my doorstep to wherever and back home.
I am under siege. At home with blinds closed and doors triple locked; phones always charged and a “go” bag packed. At work battling being undermined and overlooked. At the stores I (used to) frequent while deciding between Sophia Webster and Louboutin. Waiting on line to board my flight and being harassed by entitled passengers who wonder how I got my status on this airline. While waiting to speak to the principal of my daughter’s school about the inappropriate way her teacher used her tears as a weapon on children. Time and time again I have learned through hard lessons that my life — black people’s lives — can be taken at the hands of law enforcement or a “well meaning” coworker and if I live…maimed by the bloody blows of racism so pervasive… so deep seated that it sits in the air stale like a house that hasn’t opened the windows in years.
You might be wondering where my usual tone of joy and hope and optimism is? I want you to know that it’s there. Just not today. And I want you to consider that if I am experiencing this pain, fear, angst, anger, grief, illness and despair EVERY DAY and I STILL leave you feeling hopeful and ready to take on your next big thing — how would you experience me if I didn’t carry that mountain sized boulder with me every second of every minute of Every. Single. Day of my life.
Today is not the day to reach out to your black acquaintance, work colleague, or conference buddy you’re always so excited to see but never speak to outside the convention walls. Today is not the day to say to me (or any of us) “I don’t know what to say”. Today is definitely not the day to talk about the looting across U.S. cities without being 100x more aggrieved by the killings of innocent black people doing nothing more than existing. This country (and many countries around the world) were built by looting and pillaging other nations in the name of God and glory.
I don’t have my usual how to be a better [ fill in the blank] in 3 steps formula at the ready. I don’t have a deep bench of books for you to read (but there are so many). Not today. I don’t expect you to even respond. What would you say? 85% of the almost 5,000 of you on my list are in the social sector. So if I had something I could give you it would be 2 words.
Shana J. says
Wow, this really sent so many flickers of emotion down my spine. Bravo for eloquently expressing how many of us feel at this moment.
Your writing is inspirational. Blessings to you!