The Black community is exhausted. Before learning the verdict for George Floyd’s family, a police officer in Ohio killed another one from our community. Since that day, others have followed. Despite our long history of dehumanization and degradation in this country, we are the most optimistic subscribers to the American dream. From raising awareness to recording much-needed evidence, the revolution will undoubtedly be digitized. But Black people are unfortunately left traumatized by the constant sharing of distressing footage, reliving the pain and endless disappointment.
Exposure to these images is a reminder of our lack of safety, especially when there are no consequences for law enforcement. There is a fear that permeates Black America that change will never be realized. How long must we wait, plan, work, march, agitate, forgive, and vote before the opportunity to enjoy a society in which all lives matter equally?
Although the Ohio officer acted within the established protocol, many argue that a different approach might have saved the teen’s life. The overarching issue is the pattern of shooting blacks and deescalating whites. Again, the recent Ohio murder is not as clear as it was with George Floyd. However, due to the pattern black communities have experienced, it is difficult for Black Americans to digest so many shootings…without choking first.
While we wish the victim, who called 911 for help, did not have to die. This scenario does not instantly label the shooter a bad cop. But, his decision would likely have been different if the agitators were not black. Black America is inherently viewed differently when it comes to police matters, “Do I shoot or attempt to deescalate?”
For centuries, Black people worldwide have been raped, both metaphorically and literally, of freedom, rights, and resources. We have been enslaved in systems that were constructed solely to keep us oppressed, suppressed, and repressed. And yet, despite the countless protests, activists, and wars that fought for equality before us, it took the collision of Covid-19 and a portion of the nine-minute and 26-second video to finally catalyze a global awakening for those seemingly oblivious to our endless plight.
This alarming wake-up call was not for the Black community. We did not need to see or hear George Floyd echo the exact same harrowing words as Eric Garner’s “I can’t breathe” while pinned down with the weight of a white policeman on his neck. In a perverse twist of overnight celebrity, innocent people are now household names as their agonizing final moments become clickbait.
The unavoidable spectacle of Black death is both triggering and haunting. Nevertheless, long before social media’s inception, graphic violent images were shared in the form of lynching postcards in the late 1800s to mid-1900s. Black people have had to endure seeing their bodies being publicly terrorized and tortured for years, and at some point, we must ask ourselves: How many more need to be shared until the intended purpose has been fulfilled? Or perhaps more simply, what even is the purpose?
Black people are exhausted because we are overexposed to trauma. According to clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Rheeda Walker, “To assume psychology is the same regardless of race is to operate from a place of privilege. Black people do things differently. See things differently. Feel things differently.” She added:
Sometimes Black people can’t talk about depression and anxiety, but we can say, ‘I am tired,’ and that fatigue is synonymous with depression. The fatigue from having to work so hard, being hypervigilant, having to behave, talk, and style our hair a certain way. The exhaustion is an amalgamation of all the things we have to navigate in our racial experience while being on the wrong side of race.
Black grief runs so deep we often become desensitized to it like a chronic pain we have numbed in our minds and learned to live with. But this is not normal, nor is it healthy. We have inherited ancestral trauma as we endeavor to amalgamate our own, and the recent BLM movement has allowed Black people to break their silence without as much fear of the possible repercussions. As our global outcry finally begins to reverberate that Black lives do matter, we must remember that black rest along with black laughter, happiness, and mental well-being also matter.
Black lives may not matter to some, but they have a real presence in this country. They provided a great deal of labor on which America was founded. Black America is the face of strength and resilience; they have learned to survive in the face of death, humiliation, and oppression. African Americans continue to exemplify dignity in the face of denial and humanity while constantly being humiliated.
When a black person is killed at the hands of law enforcement, many make a point to comb the internet in hopes of finding reasons the life did not matter. Even before the Chauvin trial, it was as if Floyd’s life was not deserving of redemption or even life because he was not a saint and Black people have to be saints to deserve life. Far too often, the media falls into this trap of trying to create a narrative that proves–after the killing, always after the killing–that this person should have been killed.
Candace Owens took to Fox News to complain about the injustice of Chauvin’s conviction. Owens is a Black conservative author and personality whose claim to fame is her disdain for Black America. She said:
What we are really seeing is mob justice, and that is really what happened with this entire trial. This was not a trial about George Floyd and Derek Chauvin. This was a trial about whether the media was powerful enough to create a simulation and decide upon a narrative absent any facts.
Black lives do matter even as the struggle for justice, rights, and full citizenship appears bleak. While history contends that black lives have never mattered, it has now become necessary to insist, “Black lives do matter,” and to proclaim it often and loudly. Yes, all lives matter, except when they do not, as is the case in a world laced with racial biases within a large portion of America.
Black Americans are exhausted. Yet, we continue to forge a trail of optimism amid what appears to be a hopeless situation. That confidence does not reside in a naïve belief that America will simply change its murderous ways; it resides in knowing that each generation of African Americans has changed America for the better. This hope arises from a great faith that the next generation will take the next steps toward the future we deserve. This supernatural optimism has renewed my resolve to do all that I can and make whatever changes I can to carry on the fight.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Vogue: Your Black Friends Are Still Exhausted—Check On Their Mental Well-Being
Dr. Rheeda Walker: Blackness Is A Superpower
Top/Inline Images Courtesy of Clay Bank’s Unsplash Page – Creative Commons License
Third Inline Image Courtesy of Jowanna Daley’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Clay Bank’s Unsplash Page – Creative Commons License