No question, being a black man is demanding/the fires in my eyes and the flames need fanning.
~ Talib Kweli, “K.O.S. (Determination)”
As most millennials, I sleep with my phone next to me for a multitude of very important and justifiable reasons. When I wake up the first thing I do (after shooting a thank you to the Big Guy above, of course) is hop on my iPhone. First is hitting the home button and seeing if I got a notification of any “hey bighead” texts from attractive women (nope). Then I open IG to see if any fine ladies have put googly eye emojis under any of my selfies (naw). After my initial morning humbling that comes from desert dry DM’s I make my way over to my Snapchat, then the old faithful’s, Twitter and Facebook.
This is where the trepidation and fear start creeping in. My Snapchat is my only real last bastion of blissful escapism from reality. Instagram sometimes allows me to circumvent bad news by lobbing me a few internet honey accounts followed by my friends showing off their kids as they get them ready for school.
But it’s Facebook and Twitter where I’m most likely to get the guttural punch to the stomach. The shared news article. The hashtag. The beautifully somber soliloquys that inform me that another Black body has been gunned down, nearly always by agents representing a system that should be helping to protect and preserve these lives, not taking them like real life Grim Reapers.
Sometimes there are reprieves. Some days start off with no new names added to depressingly exhaustive lists. Sometimes a few days even tick by without any officer involved shootings (at least that haven’t permeated my networks). Man, one time I think I counted over a week without any new hashtags! It was like a Police Brutality Vacation! Sadly, these reprieves never last. And usually when it seems like things are quiet is when multiple stories crop up, sometimes days, sometimes mere hours between them. It’s as if some sickeningly efficient machine is correcting itself to meet a macabre quota.
Need I remind you this roller coaster of emotions occur before I even have a chance to brush the morning taste off my tongue?
An even greater burden is trying to figure out the required emotional response for the rest of the day. What level of righteous anger is required of me to maintain my member in good standing status in Black America? How many tears do I need to shed that will do justice for the memories of the ebony women and men who have been taken away under trumped up and downright bullshit circumstances? Should I call in to work today so that I can attend the 10:30am protest followed by the 1:45pm vigil?
And as I contemplate the revolution that won’t be televised, it happens. My boy sends me a hilarious meme that I can’t help but laugh at. I scroll past picture after picture of the murdered on IG and somehow come across the most epic slow-motion twerk video every recorded on a champagne proof Samsung. An alert comes through that my fantasy football draft is 3 weeks away and my mind starts to wonder to whether or not I should take a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round. Somehow in the midst of state sanctioned homicide, I have found peace of mind.
Yet just as my tears of pain and anger at the death of people who look like me have finally come to dry, I can feel new ones form as now a feeling just as strong starts to set it. Guilt.
Who am I to be happy at a time like this? How can I use my breath to laugh when someone just lost their life as they begged to have theirs? How can I concentrate on anything other than these systemic tragedies that seem like there is no end in sight? James Baldwin said to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. Don’t I owe it him to be like the jheri curled Ice Cube and be a N.W.A?
I still don’t know if I’ve truly been able to reconcile these feelings; not now or for the last 14 years or so that I’ve been made aware of what it means to be a Black man in America and to often have all this glorious melanin be viewed as mediocrity at best and a threat that needs to put down at worst. What I do know is that I’ve always been told that nothing is worth your happiness, even the persistent, nonsensical and soul crushing hatred for black and brown bodies. Yet somehow these chocolate bodies, while not only bearing the weight of the world, also find time to exceed and excel. In classrooms, on fields, on movie screens and in the boardroom. #BlackPerseveranceSoLit you can’t help to crack a smile, even as this country tries to crack our backs, metaphorically and sometimes in the back of a police van. Yet as much as I’m aware that my name could be the next one roared out a rally, I refuse to allow that very real possibility to rob me of one of the very few things I can control, my joy. So march, protest, engage and act, but make sure you find some time to share that funny ass Arthur meme and maintain.