Infuriated. Devastated. Disgusted. Deeply Disturbed. Tired. Still Tired. Again. Some of the many words that encapsulate the feelings and narrative that has resurfaced for me as I experience yet another episode of, “PTSD from being Black in America.” After hesitantly watching the murder of George Floyd, chills engulfed my body, tears fell to my lap, and my heart knew nothing but pain. 8 minutes and 46 seconds is a long a** time! I kept shouting inside my head, get off of him, help him, he’s going to die, but no one could hear me, but even more unsettling, they refused to hear him. George Floyd + the many other known/unknown black men and women who have died for: Penal Code § 16192020 Caught being Black in America.
This tragedy took place in broad daylight as multiple people witnessed this heinous crime. It appeared to me there were bystanders who wanted to do more to step in but were conflicted. Conflicted because they shared the same color skin as the one pleading for his life. As my mind has taken many trips on the, “what if” train, I wonder what I would have done if I too witnessed this evil. We are taught to obey and respect authority; it makes society a more civilized one. However, was it the role of white bystanders to use their white privilege (the reality that a person’s whiteness comes with societal benefits and advantages that are not shared by all people of color) and physically insert themselves? Yes, the officers involved are the only ones at fault. However, watching this play out placed a bright spotlight on civilian fear of doing what is just when law enforcement are the ones committing the crime. Video recording is vital and our white allies can do more…right? I never want to put anyone’s life at risk, but these types of questions keep me awake at night.
One thing I do know is how pathetic it is to discriminate against people with a certain skin color and certain chromosomes. Yes, this is a deep-rooted problem Black America navigates underneath our daily smiles and surface-level presentations of ourselves; similar to the Iceberg Illusion–what people see vs what people don’t see. Underneath our brave faces, we are processing a daily dose of implicit bias + discrimination + limited resources + racial profiling + intersectionality, and the list grows on.
There are far too many men and women who take an oath to serve and protect their communities, while also hiding behind the racist values that they consciously carry into the workplace. Matter of fact, I fear that many take on this job of power and control with the sole intent to exterminate us. Black Americans account for less than 13% of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans” —washingtonpost.com . The ugly truth is that this has been happening since the inception of our country. American history continues to repeat itself at the expense of innocent Black lives. However, FYI–we are tired of dying.
I can not breathe because being a black woman in America does not grant me the same unalienable rights as nonblack women who roam the same neighborhoods as me. I can not breathe because I am the mother of a black son; fearful for the moment when he will be seen as a threat to those who refuse to see him as a human being. I can not breathe because every time I try to recover from the next execution and soon-to-be-hashtag, I relive the same nightmare all over again—except I never wake up because it is my reality. I can not breathe because no matter how much education I have, success I attain, and all the hoops I have to jump through, I am still considered less than and disposable. I can not breathe knowing that no one in my family is safe both inside or outside of our homes. I can not breathe until the chains of systemic racism are forever broken. @mysydneyjames
Let me guess. If you are still reading, you want to D O something, but are not sure where to start. I scrolled across a quote while digesting IG and it really resonated with me.
“Resistance is NOT a one lane highway. Maybe your lane is protesting, maybe your lane is organizing, maybe your lane is counseling, maybe your lane is art activism, maybe your lane is surviving the day.Do NOT feel guilty for not occupying every lane. We need all of them.” @lindss_tastic
Being an educator for the past 13 years, I also feel that our collective willingness to remain constant in the our individual cycles of learning and growing, is one of our biggest weapons against hate and racism. This work is constant. Educate yourself, your family, your friends. Speak up when you hear that racially fueled comment land on the dinner table. Correct your friends when they use the N-word, visit museums that highlight African and Black history, buy from Black-owned businesses, volunteer and/or donate to organizations that are actively working towards racial equity, share content created by POC creators, show up to protests, donate to bail funds, VOTE for the leaders our country so desperately needs to make positive change for generations to come, and be a white ally today, tomorrow, and always. For those of you who are already doing these things, I see you; please keep your foot on the gas.
Here is a list of educational resources so you can commit to this work, and (for self-care) songs to refuel your soul for the work that must be done. “The association of race and disease is a deep reservoir from which those thirsty for direction, answers, and meaning drink deeply.”
BOOKS (for kids)
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester
A Black Dad Wrote A Kids Book About Racism Because “They Can Handle More Than You Think”: A Kid’s Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
“Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” written and illustrated by Anastasia Higginbotham—“An honest explanation about how power and privilege factor into the lives of white children, at the expense of other groups, and how they can help seek justice.”— Meena Harris
BOOKS (for adults)
If You’re a White Person Seeking to Be a Better Ally, Add These Books to Your Reading List (Popsugar): https://www.popsugar.com/news/books-about-racism-white-people-should-read-47518818
CLIPS + ARTICLES
“A Conversation About Growing Up Black” by Joe Brewster and Perri Peltz is a short documentary where young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.” https://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000003670178/a-conversation-about-growing-up-black.html
Fatal Force (Washington Post) https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/
Police Videos Aren’t Going Away. How Can We Learn From Them? (NPR) https://www.npr.org/2017/03/25/521102557/police-videos-arent-going-away-how-can-we-learn-from-them
Trevor Noah speaks out to address those who may be more upset about the destruction of property than the loss of life. https://twitter.com/TheDailyShow/status/1266523374207057922?s=20
Trevor Noah + other Hollywood celebrities take a stand: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-06-01/george-floyd-protests-trevor-noah-celebrity-reactions
Kimberlé Crenshaw: What is Intersectionality? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViDtnfQ9FHc ; https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality/discussion
Color Blind or Color Brave? (Mellody Hobson, TED) https://www.ted.com/talks/mellody_hobson_color_blind_or_color_brave
Dr. Joy Degruy: https://www.joydegruy.com
Rachel Cargle details how you can use knowledge, empathy, and action to make positive change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leBPMyQ60HM
Uncovering the truth behind the Statue of Liberty: https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/abolition.htm
Teaching Hard History: https://www.splcenter.org/20180131/teaching-hard-history
Spotify Playlist: “You can follow the full “Songs Giving Us Life” playlist on Spotify. And while you’re at it, check out NPR Music’s “Isle of Calm” playlist. It’s got more than six hours of music “to help settle your jangled nerves, slow your heart rate and string up a little hammock for your soul.” (Code Switch;NPR)
“Just Mercy, based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society. For the month of June, Just Mercy will be available to rent for free across digital platforms in the US.” —@wbpictures
Who Me? Biased? A series of short films that explore the brain science behind implicit bias and what you can do about it.
A Conversation on Race: A series of short films about identity in America
P.S. WHITE ALLYSHIP–After a text conversation with my dear friend who lives in DC, she had some plausible tips that our white allies could use to help move the pendulum forward: acknowledge racism is real and well alive and disproportionately affects people of color, check your privilege daily, hold your law enforcement and elected officials accountable, listen, create spaces and opportunities that uplift equity, stop being naive, extend compassion because many Black Americans are not okay, and use personal platforms to spread awareness. –@amhenry
Inaction + neutrality + silence feeds bigotry. Mistakes will be made, but it’s better to “show up imperfectly than to not show up at all (Rachel Zoe).”
See us, hear us, and stand with us to right the wrongs of this unjust system.
*Personal Tool Kit: Responsibility. Accountability. Continuous Action. Education.