Hey friend, I hope you and your family are doing well with everything going on right now. 2020 has been as hectic a year as one could have imagined, and frankly, I don’t know when we’ll return to some normalcy or a calm, but I want to determine to pursue some good news moving forward. So, after reading this, whether in the comments here or on IG/FB/Twitter, go ahead and share some good news in your life, I need it and I’m sure others do as well. Thank you. That being said, however, bear with me just this once, as I have this to get off my chest.
You ever watch a really good anthropology movie or show or read something with a number of different storylines? Usually, each story is connected either to the next or to a central theme or character. In a way, that’s what 2020 has felt like.
I want to be careful with my words because I’ve determined that everything isn’t necessarily black and white but the theme of my gripe today is exactly ‘Black and White.’
According to Maryland’s Department of Health, as of June 3, 2020, there are 54,175 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and 2,474 deaths. 15, 631 of those cases are African-Americans along with 1,019 recorded deaths to the Black community. There are 10,603 confirmed cases for White Marylanders, of which there are 1,039 deaths. Additionally, the smaller-Hispanic community has a total of 13,901 confirmed cases and 234 deaths.
There are several stipulations as to why Black people have almost 30% of the confirmed cases and 41% of total deaths in the state, but each reason will allude to systemic racial injustice either plaguing our health care, our living conditions or the ‘essential-ness’ of our work. Each factor is a subplot to the racial divide in our country.
All of it is sad. It truly is and I hurt for every story I hear about friends and family members who contract the virus and don’t make it through. But there’s an injustice to recognize within all of those numbers: For a further breakdown of the numbers, in 2019, the Census estimated that of the Maryland population, 30.9% were African-American — conversely, 58.8% were White. Insert those COVID-19 cases and deaths, and you’ll plainly see that the minority is the majority in these cases and deaths.
According to the data, Hispanics make up 10.4% of the Maryland population.
In short, what’s aiding these heightened numbers for the Black and Hispanic community, country-wide, is that these communities make up the majority of the blue-collar “essential” workers. These communities also often lack adequate medical care and response from health agencies.
And per the cause of the ongoing protests and riots, these communities, and especially the Black community, are brutalized, decimated and counted as less-than by the majority.
It’s the majority bullying, beating and killing the minority. It’s what this country was founded on. It’s how this country “thrives” and shows itself a “world-power:” subject the marginalized to unfair conditions and circumstances.
I started writing this post on May 19, shortly after more information about the Ahmaud Arbery killing surfaced. At the time, I, myself, found it hard to breathe mentally, if you understand what I mean. The image of this young man, the same age as me, floating around all over social media, haunted me. Arbery looks like a brother I have connected with growing up. Someone I played sports with. Someone I cracked jokes with. He looks like one of my guys. Shoot, he looks like me.
It feels like I lost a friend every time I see his picture, and I didn’t know the beautiful man. What I did know is, I love running as well. That I, too, am a young Black man with a less than stellar past but with a bright future that at any moment can be lost because of the color of my skin.
It could’ve been me.
That daunting reality hurts so much. My brother, my friends, nearly 99.5% of the men in my life will fit the description of a black man, and at any given time can be seen as a threat, as a beast made to be slaughtered.
We haven’t gotten over Trayvon, Michael, Sarah, Philando, Tamir, Alton, Eric, Botham … Emmett. There are so many names of Black brothers and sisters who have died by the hands of careless and/or malicious white people and police officers. It’s nothing new though, we just now get a free subscription to the lynching of Black folks thanks to social media. While I’m grateful that we can see the horrendous crimes taking place due to video cameras, I cannot bring myself to watch another slaying of a Black person. I just can’t stomach it.
Sadly, I don’t think we’ve ever, as a people, gotten the chance to ‘just breathe’ or really ever ‘take it easy.’ The systems of this nation have always been against us, and the fascists’ supremacy mindset in similar forms all of the world. From the iron bit to yoke slaves into submission, to the noose and to most recently: a knee on the neck of a surrendered, non-resisting and innocent man, our necks have always been “came” for.
Just thinking about George Floyd’s life being suffocated and crushed out of him, and those last words of “I can’t breathe,” Black people to the racist white have been seen as cattle or wild game that should be beaten, forced to comply and killed whether or not we do. We’re the cows holstered by yokes around our necks. We’re the wild animals that are wrangled with a rope. We’re the big hunting prize that is shown off to say “I got another one!”
This stuff sucks. And it’s not exclusive to whether your family is tenth-generation African-Americans or first-generation ones, it could happen to any of us. It’s been hard finding words to articulate what I’m feeling because, like most of us are feeling, there are no finite words to express the pain, frustration, anger and anxiety. I hate giving any credence to fear but leaving the house and returning isn’t a given in 2020, maybe it never ever was for Black people in America.
Neither is having a fair trial or shown fair justice. Neither, seemingly, is the right to breathe.
About a week ago, I unplugged from social media because it was getting grossly more disgusting by the minute. What I didn’t know was by doing so, I’d be sparing my heart from a melting pot of further pain and confusion and wickedness. I know there’s a lot of good going on in the protesting, the riots, donations and other means for change, but I’ve also heard and seen bits of the continued and blatant bigotry and hatred.
For anyone who’s found being ‘in-the-know’ with everything going on via social media ‘suffocating,’ I’d suggest unplugging a little while. I’d suggest finding a way to breathe away from all that’s going on.
I initially planned on naming this “It Could Have Been Me,” and while that’s true, I think it’s equally true that we need to breathe. Physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m grateful that I have oxygen and am actively walking with God through all this pain, but I know that my mind is constantly gasping for air with the weight of everything going on.
Hearing about the Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper (no-relation) Central Park situation was maddening because this was potentially another Emmett Till situation had Christian not been recording the incident. This could’ve been another Black man trying to do the right thing being accused of something he did not do, and thus losing his life because of white privilege, racism and inherent supremacy.
Breonna Taylor absolutely did not have to die nor should she have been disturbed from her sleep that night. And last week, Tony McDade didn’t have to die at the hands of officers either.
I sit here letting you know: I don’t have answers. I don’t exactly know what to do with all of this. I’ve taken this wrestle to God and will continue to do so, hoping for earnest and progressive results and changed perspectives. I’m having these conversations throughout each day with friends. I encourage you to do the same. Find ways to exhale and inhale.
Please continue to take action as well, if it’s what you’re moved to do. Be safe (Ms. Rona still in these streets), but if you’re led to protest, please do so. If you’re led to pray, please do so. If you’re led to hand out water or milk or provide shelter, please do so.
We need change. We need justice. We need help. We need deliverance. We need life. We need to breathe.
God is and has always been a God of justice, mercy and about the plight of the brokenhearted. It’s hard to overlook that and think “do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38), but the reality is that “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him, He heard” (Psalm 22:24). So, I’m trying to believe and hold onto this. I hope you’re finding something to hold on to in God’s Word as well.
Here’s a “just a few” names we’re not over (taken from a New York Daily News op-ed):
Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Billy Ray Davis, Alonzo Smith, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, La’Vante Biggs, Alton Sterling, Alteria Woods, Botham Jean, Anthony Ashford, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Philandro Castile, Kevin Hicks, Terrill Thomas, Mary Truxillo, Eric Reason, Breonna Taylor, Ronell Foster, Jamar Clark, Matthew Ajibade, Junior Prosper, Quintonio Legrier, Dyzhawn Perkins, Alexia Christian, Mya Hall, Dominique Clayton, Nathaniel Harris Pickett, Bettie Jones.
“Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.”
So God help us.