I am tired. Not even angry. Just tired. Tired of not expecting the system to work, only for it to meet my low expectations. Tired of how heavy this feels; how the contours of life in America are hauntingly shaped by race and all its struggles–so much so that I can go from being incredibly excited about my dissertation that deals with race in historical and theoretical perspective to tonight’s announcement that remind me of the material realities of racist, flawed systems. I am just tired. My feelings might change tomorrow, but unfortunately, systematic disenfranchisement does not change as quickly as feelings….and that is, perhaps, the rub of institutional racism. We (our society) has largely bought into the idea that racism is simply personal; that it is about how we feel about people. The irony, of course, is that once the realities of the deeply flawed system are revealed, those who feel angry, hurt, or frustrated are denied the full range of their human emotions through policing tactics, admonition to be part of the “solution” and not the “problem,” to be civil and peaceful. Craziness.
We have been here before. When Zimmerman received a “not guilty” verdict, I wrote the following:
14 July 2014 5:16am
We are not free in this country. Every human life does not have the same value, especially under the law. I am sitting here at 5am in a very expensive hotel and I’m grieving with folks all around the world….because I know my presence here in this hotel, no matter how nice it is, doesn’t mean “we’ve made it.” In fact, right now, it serves as a reminder of how quickly we can forget that we have not. It’s still raining but it looks like the storm may pass soon. I’m thinking about justice. I’m thinking about how beauty, pain, and joy coexist. I’m wondering how we find the balance between them all. I’m thinking about N. who fell asleep crying in his mother’s arms after the verdict. I’m hurting for his friend who said, “why study and get good grades when a stranger still looks at me and sees a criminal?” I’m crying because I don’t have a legitimate answer. Everything I can think of seems cliché and insufficient. I’m thinking about parents like Lisa and Greg who let their kids be angry and let them process their emotions. we cannot tell our children they are part of humanity but then deny them the right to feel another’s pain or their own anger. I’m frustrated with posts like, “God has the final say” and “God is the ultimate judge,” because I know these sayings are cloaks that help people sleep at night and shield them from responsible action. Even if there is a God who has a final word, there are a lot of sentences, commas, and periods between the beginning and the end. We are the authors of those stories….
…and so we are here again. Here I am again….thinking. And feeling the numbness that comes with knowing way too much about how deeply ingrained the devaluing of black life is. It is not simply historical. It is daily. It is ongoing. It is sometimes paralyzing. Deadly. I know people believe education is a key to liberation–even I believe that–but right now, in this moment, after years of studying theories and histories of race/racism and how systems of power work, I am not liberated. I am at as much a loss as those around me, even with my fancy education….because even when we know the outcome is not going to be on the side of justice, even when we know, we hope. We hope, because even though we know, we are waiting for the day that we are proven wrong. Faith: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Maybe one day…