The following are some of the thoughts I’ve had during the last month:
- I watched Dave Chappelle’s latest release, “8:46,” a week ago. I’ve been a fan of that man ever since his earliest Chappelle’s Show days. I was alarmed when he came on the screen into view—I had never seen him look as he appeared in this special. He was visibly distraught and disheveled, checking his notes in a notebook (which I’ve never seen any well-known comic do on stage), and looked like he’d been going through it. My first thought was, this is the textbook picture of how I feel on the inside right now. I. Feel. Exhausted. I returned back to my office headquarters a few weeks ago and it’s one of our busiest times of the year, so I’m mentally exhausted from that, along with having to be in video meetings where my White coworkers are talking about a new cake recipe they baked over the weekend, and my boss asks how my weekend was and sometimes with tears in my eyes I say it was hard but I got through it. Then, I have to come home and have hard and uncomfortable conversations with Hubs which is just as mentally taxing. I know I’m not the only Black person feeling this way. I’m worried for my oldest brother who has been out peacefully protesting. I’m worried for him because he’s a big Black man and we’ve seen that whether you’re peaceful or not, the cops still don’t seem to care. My heart hurts; it really does something to your spirit when you see your people being murdered by the police in broad daylight in front of a crowd. Over and over and over again, sometimes with kicks thrown in long after the handcuffs were put on and unconsciousness took over, and sometimes with an “I got him,” as if in excitement that the intended shooting practice target had been hit. My second thought was I was glad he called out Don Lemon for calling him out, because what we don’t need right now is finger pointing. Don’t worry about what anyone else is or isn’t saying or doing about this movement right now, unless of course the person is a racist em-effer saying racist shit or otherwise threatening the life and well-being of Black people, then of course finger point away until they lose their job/funding/credentials/television show/etc.
- Those hard and uncomfortable conversations Hubs and I have been having at home? They mostly happen while we sit at opposite ends of our dining room table which is just under seven and a half feet long. Some nights, our dining room table has not been long enough for me.
- Thank you to all law enforcement officers for voluntarily resigning or calling in sick in solidarity with your fellow coworkers who have been fired or placed on leave due to using excessive force on or killing Black people and/or those protesting with us. This means we do not have to spend time seeking you, the rotten fruit, out on our own. You used to hide under hooded white sheets, so thanks for being more conspicuous. Lines are being drawn in the sand and it’s so much easier for me to know exactly which side you’re on.
- If our government can figure out how to get $1200 into the hands of almost every American citizen within weeks (and now there is talk about a second round), they can figure out reparations. Because it has never been about what they—the government—can and can’t do but has always been about what they will or won’t do, and what they have always done regarding money and economics is what will best benefit them, not us (Black people).
- To all the White folks and other folks with less melanin in your skin who are not Black: THANK YOU for stepping UP and OUT–joining us in peaceful protests, marches, and sometimes even being living, human barriers between us and the police, like the White women in Louisville, KY who literally put themselves between us and the cops. I posted this on my IG page a few weeks ago–no matter the color of your skin, all hands on deck are needed, still, every day, until I can wake up in the morning and not hear about another Black person being killed by the police. I have not been out marching and protesting because I cannot risk bringing coronavirus home, but I’m being a soldier and raising my fist in other ways. Also, White folks and other non-Black folks, thanks for reaching out and asking what you can do, and though it’s not our job to educate you on how you can help right now (re my number 1—we’re tired)—you can start with this book:
It’s truly is an excellent read for any person of any ethnicity. I’ve brought down my own personal copy from its place on a bookshelf and started reacquainting myself with some of its many pearls of wisdom, this being one of those; “White People: I don’t want you to understand me better; I want you to understand yourselves. Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance.”–Ijeoma Oluo
6. I’m tired of seeing company websites claiming to be standing behind and in support of Black Lives Matter like it’s the newest trending thing instead of everyday life for Black people. I need you, companies claiming to be standing behind this movement, to put your money where your mouth is: first, for the smaller companies, do you even have any Black employees? If not, why not? For the larger companies: how many Black people are on your executive board? Are your Black employees being paid the same salary as their non-Black counterparts? When they speak up in meetings and, heaven forbid, if they do not agree with something that is said, are they accused of being angry and belligerent or are their opinions listened to with the same respect as anyone else’s? For the Black people working at these workplaces, are you doing your part to make them own these statements? At my own small workplace I’m one of two Black employees. Just this past week my team started the conversation of our upcoming photo shoot for our biggest customer who said they wanted to continue to see diversity in our imaging. The head of my team said we needed to replace the Black model we’d previously used, and I said, “Okay. But I want to see someone undeniably Black with dark skin. I don’t want to see someone looking like (another model we use) who looks like she just has a tan and you’re calling her Black. That’s not acceptable.” Everyone agreed–one step of many to take, but still a step forward.
7. To all the Karens: I would think by now you’d have learned that you need to mind your business. Judging from all the news stories I still see, seems you still haven’t. Just remember, you’ll probably be recorded, so no more crying and lying to get you out of the messes you’re making for yourselves. And another tip–if you dare put your hands on us, be prepared to have the taste slapped out of your mouth, a la the Phoenix, Arizona gas station Karen.
8. I saw a Tik Tok video exercise that involved putting all fingers on each hand up and, as a series of 12 statements were read, you put a finger down for each one that you could answer with a ‘yes.’ The statements included: I have been accused of not being able to afford something, I have been called a racial slur, I have been followed in a store unnecessarily, etc. Almost every Black person I saw who took on the challenge had no fingers raised at the end, only two fists. And seeing this, I couldn’t help but think to myself, if all we have left is a fist, we really only have two choices: raise them in the air in a desperate plea to finally be seen and heard or start punching and fighting back. I believe the majority of us are still choosing to raise them in the air in numerous ways, but don’t get it twisted–if we need to start punching, we will start punching, because as a man from Baton Rouge said so well the other day, “We’re done begging you to do what’s right.”–Gary Chambers Jr.
9. As an adult, I’ve often asked my mom about some of the things she experienced growing up with unchecked racism in the south. How did she keep going on when the leaders who’d promised to help make things better for her were being eliminated? Medgar Evers. Malcolm X. Martin Luther King Jr. How could she get out of bed every morning when people who looked like her were being murdered for existing? Emmett Till. Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair (the Four Little Girls). Unfortunately, now I know how she did it because I have to do it, too. The only difference for me is the names: Trayvon Martin. Michael Brooks. Eric Garner. George Floyd. Brionna Taylor. Botham Jean. Philando Castile. We keep going on because we are survivors who come from survivors. Our history books tell us that the Middle Passage was something that most humane people wouldn’t put their most despised farm animal through, yet here we are. Slave owners did unthinkable things to their ‘property,’ but again, here we are. Dogs were set loose on us, hooded horsemen hanged us, school children spat in our faces while their parents spewed venomous words at us and crosses burned on our lawns. But still, here we are.
So here’s the deal: we–Black people–are here. We have been here, and we are not going anywhere. We literally cannot go anywhere because of the Pandemic and almost every other country’s border being closed right now. This house cleaning-upping that’s starting is a step in the right direction–statues coming down, the Confederate flag starting to be banned in some places, Juneteenth being recognized as a paid holiday in other places–but it needs to continue. I’ve named this post 8:47 because this is where we picked up after that helpless man had no breath left to breathe–this is the exact moment when we started this time of reckoning. At one time, all 50 states and 60 other countries around the world were protesting in solidarity with and for the basic human rights of Black lives. We will see this movement out and we will see it through because we are survivors and it is beyond time. It is beyond time for officers who murder Black people to stop being given paid vacations (aka paid leave) while the details are discussed and settled. I don’t know of any other job on the planet where one can literally kill someone while on their work shift and be relieved of all duties but still be paid. It is beyond time for Black people to be able to play in playgrounds, run in parks, enjoy a car ride with our families, watch birds, rest and sleep in our own homes, get a bag of Skittles from the store, and breathe without fear. It is beyond time. It is. Beyond time. It. Is. Beyond. Time. It. Is. Time.