How do you find refuge from omnipresent pain? From the beginning, 2020 has been a year of Black death and Black pain. In every faction of life, Black people are suffering. We are dying the most amid a global pandemic. We are seeing our role models and greats pass away. We log onto our phones or turn on the news to see another person, who easily could have been us or our family, executed in the street. We see a Black mother threatened and harassed every day to the point of needing community protection for weeks. We see Black expectant mothers dying from childbirth. Every single day, Black Americans are exposed to Black death; and this death is one of the things so deeply connecting us. Black people have been tethered by trauma since the transatlantic slave trade. This pain is not individual, it’s communal.
Despite this connected pain and misery we feel, we are still expected to show up and function at 120% day after day. We are expected to lean and sustain a movement. We are expected to be fully attentive and present in work, school, and relationships. Black people have not even been afforded the luxury to grieve. We don’t have the luxury of being tired. We don’t have the luxury of taking some time from all the “negativity”. In a world where we are begging, screaming, fighting for the bare minimum, losing people like Kobe Bryant, CT Vivian, John Lewis, and Chadwick Boseman is another dagger in the heart of our people. In a world where we don’t have many people to look to as symbols of hope, inspiration, and possibility to begin with, living among so much consistent death can do more than exhaust us-- it wears down our spirit.
Even among this, America sees Black death as another opportunity for personal gain. Breonna Taylor’s name has become so commodified that the possibility of her family seeing justice gets slimmer and slimmer every day. Liberal Democrats used Chadwick Boseman’s last tweet, which showed support of Kamala Harris, to push forward a political agenda instead of truly mourning the death of a powerful and deeply valued member of our community. John Lewis’ name and quotes were thrown around by companies and celebrities who were silent when Black trans women were being murdered and beaten every week. Even in our countinuous death, America exploits Blackness.
Seeing the way this world is so desensitized and almost expectant of Black death makes it hard to wake up every day and try to live a life full of hope. Every Black person alive today is a miracle. We weren’t supposed to survive. Our ancestors weren’t supposed to live through all they endured, but they did. How do we exist as a living testimony when everywhere we turn is more death, more violence, more pain. Black people deserve to live free of pain and grief-- no political strings attached, no caveats, no exceptions. This is about more than gaining political freedom, this is about holistic freedom. It’s about achieving a better quality of life. All Black people are deserving of permanent love, joy, comfort, and peace; but we shouldn’t be the only people in this country who think so.
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