It’s really exhausting to be Black in America. Maybe you’ve heard that before; you’ve probably seen it recently. But if you’re not Black, let me tell you — it’s true in 2020.
Like most of us, I knew the outcome of the indictment before it was given. I knew it because of what happened after the death of Trayvon Martin. I remember riding the T and hearing someone read aloud that George Zimmerman was declared not guilty of murder. For the first time in 15 years, I was motion sick. I had to get off the train at a random stop to collect myself. I haven’t been able to shake the motion sickness or regain faith in the justice system since.
When the movement to recognize and save Black lives hit its most recent wave of support, I thought, “Eventually, they’ll get bored.” As the summer progressed, boredom and the collective desire to move on have made timely arrivals. With news of subsequent shootings, the information on the victims became murky and led to questions, not marches.
“Were they involved in the fight or breaking it up?” “Did he have a permit to be on that corner selling food?” “But what about the boyfriend?” “Why didn’t they talk to the doctor sooner?” “How could people be so upset about something that happened six months ago?”
As a Black person, there’s always underlying stress that you could be subjected to police interaction — driving your car, walking down the street, going into a store. You’re concerned that any police interaction could lead to violence. The video of George Floyd’s death was evidence that our fears can be realized. Our fathers and brothers don’t matter. Tamir Rice had a toy gun in his own yard, but a teenager shooting at protesters was offered water. Our children don’t matter. The city of Louisville settled with Breonna Taylor’s mother for $12 million dollars. She died in her own bed, and no one will be prosecuted for her death. Our sisters and mothers don’t matter.
You know what seems to matter? That the average customer believes they are on the right side of justice because their favorite store now features commercials with darker-skinned people. Famous social media accounts were muted to amplify new and palatable Black voices in hopes that you’ll realize we are human beings. Without the reminder of the little black squares, it seems people have forgotten what we’ve been trying to explain. Black women are fighting for their lives daily. Black men are terrified to leave their homes. These public deaths serve as traumatic reminders: 1. We will never be the same in the eyes of the law. 2. Staying home may not help you stay alive.
We’ve seen big commercialized shows of anti-racism, Zoom talks, and book introductions — but no actual justice. It would be unbelievable to me if I weren’t Black. Some of us will continue marching. Some of us will attempt to effect change in policy. Some of us will write our two cents and hope someone reading looks inward and outward. Some of us will lean into any joy we can find as means of resistance and survival. I hope that if you’re reading this and you’re Black, you’re taking care of yourself.