You Are My Friends
I am exhausted.
Several of my White friends have reached out to me in the past few days. They have expressed concern for me and my family. They see the outrage that has consumed our nation and spread throughout the globe. They care about me and they want me to know. I truly appreciate their outreach…
but I do not know how to respond.
We’ve seen this countless times before. The shock wore off a long time ago, but social media is on fire. And here we are again with the same argument we’ve been having over and over. And I’m tired of trying to convince some stranger online that my life matters as much as theirs. I’m tired of the bullshit canned responses from those who refuse to see a problem mainly because it does not affect them. I’m tired of people cherry-picking statistics to justify their racism. I’m tired of the whitewashed quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m tired of people bending over backward to justify the killing of human beings. I’m really just tired of it all. And it’s been hard for me to consolidate all the things I’ve thought and said already. Thankfully, El-P and Killer Mike have dropped another bomb on us just in the knick of time. Mike’s lyrics from Walking In The Snow sum up my sentiment perfectly.
You so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me
Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper — ‘I can’t breathe’
And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy
But truly the travesty
You’ve been robbed of your empathy
Replaced it with apathy
As I listen to those words and think of the flurry of social media activity as we try to remain socially distant, I wonder if my anger has been directed at the wrong people. Have we wasted enough time trying to convince those who don’t regard us as human beings? Are we not doing enough to motivate those who say they do? What do I need to do besides adding more words to screens? And looking inward, has the little safe space I’ve carved out made me apathetic as well?
It has been encouraging to see so many people riled up over these incidences, not just Black and Brown people. But there will be those who will keep their blinders on to focus on the property destruction or complain that people are overreacting to one little incident. You see the division along party lines. You see friendships being broken on social media. You see the police continue to claim victimhood. A lot will be argued and lost during the discussion we are finally having. My hope is that from all of this more people will understand that there is a fundamental difference in how a lot of Black people view the police. We are afraid of the police and we’re tired of White people dismissing it as a failure of our culture rather than a failure on the institution that is supposed to protect us.
When I was ten years old, one Saturday I was playing football with some friends in a school lot. Just a bunch of 10 to 12-year-olds playing, not doing anything wrong. A brown sedan pulls up and two White men get out with angry looks on their faces. We suspect they might be police but we really have no idea at this point. One of them points towards us and says “You, come here!” We don’t know who he’s pointing to. We back up and ask them what they want. They just continue to bark orders and we continue distancing ourselves from them. Suddenly they both pull out their guns and point them at us and yell “Don’t move!” Of course, being a bunch of terrified children, we scattered. I remember running for my life as fast as I could. My heart felt like it would was going to explode. I slowed down about half a block away and the adrenaline subsided enough to allow my brain to process what was happening. I realized that after we started running the two men actually said “Police, freeze!” By then it was too late. Most of us were gone. I started walking back to see what happened and saw they had chased one of my friends to the fence and tackled him as he tried to jump over. I don’t remember if they cuffed him but they put him in their car and drove away. At that point more of us had come back to figure out what happened and we all ran to the rectory near the school to get one of the priests to help us.
We later found out that there had been reports of a young Black boy seen with a gun in that neighborhood. He was wearing a red, white, and green striped shirt. My friend who was taken was wearing a red, white, and green striped shirt. These plain-clothes police officers were following up on this report. I would think it’s clear that they really messed up how they approached a bunch of children. And I don’t remember if anything happened to them other than the tongue lashing they received from the priest who went to find him after he was taken away. As afraid as I was at that moment, I can only imagine how terrified my friend was and surely that had a lasting effect on him.
I know that incidences like this happen all the time to young Black children. You hear countless stories like mine or worse. You hear so many Black people proclaim that they will not call the police in situations when they should because they have no faith that the police will actually protect them. And too many people never question why they feel that way. So many White people that are afraid of Black people have no idea how much we fear you, especially when you’ve been given authority to kill us.
Too many White people can’t have conversations about race without making it all about themselves. They want their point of view to take precedence. They want their feelings to have priority. And they want their burden to be perceived as greater than anyone else’s. And minorities frankly have had enough of that. Your views and opinions are quite clear to everyone. It dominates our history, our economy, our media, and our laws. Take some time to listen and empathize without the expectation that you must absolutely be heard before you can genuinely engage.
I want those of you that have reached out to me to know that you are my friends. Those who want to actually listen and discuss, you are my friends. Those that have paused to examine what you can do to make things better, you are my friends. Those of you whom I learned a long time ago to forgive, you are my friends.
But those of you whose critical thought is limited to “All Lives Matter”, I no longer have time for you. And I hope the little Brown boy sleeping next to me as I write this won’t ever have to learn to forgive the way I have.