First and foremost, I love you and miss our physical connectedness. While I’ve marched beside you over the last week, I’ve had difficulty verbalizing my feelings about the knee turned noose that publicly lynched our brother George Floyd. Coupled with the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Sean Reed, and the many other black men, women, and children whose faces were running through my mind – rage consumed me. It has taken all that I believe in to check my anger. Even now, I am leaning on the power, grace, and resilience of my ancestors, so the words I offer are not an anguished roar too loud to hear.
I want all of you to know you are not alone in your grief, in your frustration, in your anger. I am tired of the knee of structural racism on my neck, slowly choking me until my breath becomes faint, and my heart races so high that the only words I can utter are “mama.” I have come to understand systemic racism is linked like the shackles that bound our ancestors in the belly of those ships. The only way we will dismantle it and reach equality is if we name each link of the chains that have us bound in this country.
Like you, I am tired of the police using the phrases “reasonable assumption” and “perceived threat” to defend their racist acts and the destructive illegal plundering of our bodies and lives.
I am tired of the disingenuous calls, emails, and texts from white friends feigning outrage so they can keep their liberal identity intact for the sake of their careers, questioning children, and ego. Yet after they reach out, they go right back to their privilege and biases. I am tired of people interpreting my truth-telling about the specific concerns of Black people as skewed and lesser than because they want a lofty theoretical discussion that will not lead to action.
I am tired of pandering politicians who are using our pain to further their ambitions. They are with us until they are elected and then during budget season, contract selection, policy development, and hiring; they unfailingly vote against our interest. I am tired of the philanthropic community, building funding playgrounds where only the elite, connected, and subservient can play and do minimal uniformed work. Grassroots organizations and innovative, nontraditional leaders have to wait for the storms and strong winds to blow before they are temporarily allowed to play and never receive funding at the level their work warrants.
Like you, I am tired of the gatekeepers using their power and influence to keep people out rather than providing support to get others at the table. Are we ready to admit that some of the stagnation in our community is because these gatekeepers keep things at a level they can control and prop up the oppression of our people?
Like you, I am tired of the divide between black people born in the United States and those who have immigrated here from various islands. We act as if we had a choice where the boat dropped us rather than acknowledge all of our ancestors were brought to foreign shores shackled. Being born in America has given us no greater privilege, speaking the language of another colonizing country will not ward off oppression. Being divided only fortifies the structure of inequality.
What are you and I to do, what will it take to break these chains finally? Here are a few of my many thoughts:
Hold our white friends and allies, politicians, and power brokers that are awakening right now accountable. Firmly declare it’s not time to straddle the fence, and we care about their actions, not their words. They need to get informed, go more in-depth, and tell us what they are going to do, what they’re going to accomplish. Let them know if they are not working toward a solution; they are not working with us but rather reinforcing the chains that keep us oppressed.
It’s time for us to put that glove on our right hand and place our left hand over our heart. The right-hand needs the glove, so we don’t lose grip on the sledgehammer of justice. Then we break every shackle of this oppressive system. We can and must break economic inequality, subversive governmental policy and laws, health disparities, and police brutality.
The left hands over the heart is to ensure we have the tough conversations, and reckoning we need to heal us from the years of trauma and internalized oppression that has kept us from swinging in unified consistency with impact. Deep within us, we remember the cadence of freedom. Our greatness is older than our oppression. Our community, our people, need us to rise in our purpose to make way for the radical imagination of our youth and honor the lived wisdom of our elders.
Again, I love you, brothers. I pray we come together and draw on each other’s strengths.