It’s a travesty that in 2020, Black survival has come down to abiding by things blacks must do, rules that seem to change haphazardly, without notice, until another black person is killed for not knowing or abiding by them.
Those of you who know me know that I avoid politics and controversial topics. Prior to this my most controversial article has been sharing my experience of becoming a United States citizen. My social media accounts, both professional and personal, are places where people can get help, get inspired or be entertained. I’ve tried other methods of getting this message out of me in a more private format, but it is not working.
To be honest, I’m starting to believe that Black survival and this growing list of things blacks must do to survive won’t change or improve until we all get very uncomfortable and address how we feel about this issue.
My emotions and thoughts on Black survival were dragged to the surface by the case getting national media attention right now. A young man, by the name of Ahmaud Arbery, was running and was killed by two white men, Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael.
I initially was going to stay away from this topic because I did not know enough about it. I actually did not want to know about it because I’m emotionally drained from this “new normal” in this country. Cases of Black Americans being killed by White Americans and then those White Americans being exonerated, for a multitude of reasons, play on like a vicious cycle every few months.
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There is initially a lot of outrage, then the character of the Black American is called into question, then the outrage dies down and then the White American is given a slap on the wrist. Each time one of these cases plays out a new rule is added that Black must follow to survive. My emotions about this issue initially poured out in the form of a poem called “There are People Waiting to Kill You.”
There Are People Waiting to Kill You: A Poem for Black Boys and Girls Living in America
Be careful with your feet today,
Make sure you mind your walk.
When answering someone,
Don’t look them in the eye and be cautious of the way you talk.
Please don’t sound too intelligent,
Only speak when someone speaks to you
It could turn out to be dangerous,
If your words are misconstrued.
Do not do the things your white friends do,
The results won’t be the same.
I do not want to end up on the news
Asking people to say your name.
Don’t pull over for the police,
But don’t run from them either.
It may cause them to use undue force,
In a way that will be lethal.
Don’t sit in your apartment,
And don’t try to explain this is your home.
Your size and skin makes people nervous,
Babies, please clearly show your phones.
Don’t protect yourself from intruders,
Don’t play your music too loud.
Don’t do anything to attract attention,
Please blend in with the crowd.
Understand that you are different
And different here means wrong
There are people waiting to kill you,
For skittles, for playing, for jogging along.
There are people happy to kill you,
Without blinking an eye.
And my heart can’t handle,
Watching another mother’s black son or daughter die.
Normally writing a poem will help me to process and bury things down, but this time it didn't. I kept spending day after day in a funk. Then I just honestly tried to forget it.
If I’m being totally blunt, I just couldn’t handle dealing with another case and I was going to bury my head in the sand, like an ostrich, because maybe that would make it go away and not hurt as much, but then I was blinded by a startling truth that should have occured to me a long time ago. I cannot afford to bury my head in the sand because I am a Black woman, I am married to a Black man and many of the people that I love and care for are Black people.