My Black American Truth
As someone with an eerily strong sense of empathy, these past few days have been beyond overwhelming.
My mother once told me not to fake what I think others want to see or want me to be, a habit I employ too often. Today, although dressed in all black – mourning and feeling morose – I smiled. Greeted everyone with a “good morning,” “happy Friday” and responded to all “how are you?”s with my programmed “doing alright!”
I apologize. I apologize to you and to myself for not being authentic.
It is not a good morning.
It is not a happy Friday.
And I am far from all right.
My heart is rocked.
It is overwhelmed – beating deeper and harder than usual, to the point where it physically hurts.
So much violence. Pain. Anger. Confusion. Misunderstanding. Yearning to be understood. To be loved. To be respected. To be seen...as someone...who matters. Whose life matters. Whose black life matters.
Every beat of my heart this morning mourns the loss of the Dallas police officers’ lives. Their death was tragic. Uncalled for. Unlawful and unjust. I believe that #BlackLivesMatter because I believe that #AllLivesMatter, and yes – that includes #BlueLives. The unlawful and unjust seizing of ANY life is devastating. And I am devastated. Too many lives have been unlawfully and unjustly seized this week – this month – this year – this lifetime.
I am devastated. But I am also bewildered. And I seek to understand. If you – like me – are devastated by the loss of these Blue Lives, seized unlawfully and unjustly – where was your devastation for Alton Sterling? Philando Castile? Tamir Rice? Sandra Bland? Eric Garner? Aiyana Stanley Jones? All lives unlawfully and unjustly seized by the hands of those who promised to serve and protect. Where is your devastation, your outrage, your outcry for the daughter whose earliest memory of her father will most likely be his vivid, unlawful and unjust death? For the son who cries out, yearning for the warmth and love of a soul no longer on this earth?
Where is your voice for us? For me? For all lives? If you believe all lives matter, you cannot pick and choose who you advocate for. Who deserves your voice and who gets your silence. Believing that #AllLivesMatter means speaking up for ALL Lives.
So I ask. Why do Black Lives get your silence? Why does advocating for Black Lives make you uncomfortable? Why is understanding our pain not possible? Why are our deaths exempt from your sympathy, mourning, prayers and thoughts?
I am bewildered because if you will not advocate for Black lives, you are not advocating for me. For my brothers. For my father. For my mother. For my sisters.
I am not an exception. I am not special. I am not exempt.
I am Philando Castile. I am Alton Sterling.
I am one police stop away from becoming a viral hashtag.
But this is not about me.
Because I am a black life – one of many.
Bewildered, at the fact that my existence on this earth – a God given, hand-crafted existence – has to be advocated for. That I need to remind you that my life matters. My own life. The life you know and have bore witness to. The life that society tells me can be ripped away with no consequence. Do you believe that my life matters? Will you tell me that my life matters? That my brothers’ lives matters? My sisters’ lives matter? Will you tell me that I deserve justice? Will you be outraged for me?
Or will you be silent.
Bending over backwards to rationalize that I somehow deserved what happened. That my judge and jury – donned in uniform and badge, delivering verdicts with a 9mm – did what they had to.
That my life was less than.
That my life
This is what life is like for me. I am terrified of encountering police, having heard one too many stories from friends and family of the brutality they’ve endured. I am terrified for my blood – having seen, with my own eyes, police officers abuse their authority at the expense of my brother's body. Claiming one account of events and seeing an entirely different on tape. I am terrified of going to pool parties, or playing with fake guns, or having children, to be honest, and I pray for those with little black boys every day. I am terrified of being anywhere with “too many black people” despite my supposed right to peacefully assemble. I live with both a sense of fear and society challenging my unapologetic blackness because it's viewed as radical, terrorism and is now punishable by death.
This is how I live.
This is #MyBlackAmericanTruth.
And I encourage you to share yours.