May 25, I went through the usual cadence of emotions. I was devastated, furious, scared, sad, lonely, but also functioning. I answered emails and sent deliverables. It was really difficult to explain to friends and co-workers checking in that “I’m fine.” I looked at the messages, mainly confused. Why would today be any different than yesterday? Last month? 2016? 2014 and the years before?
As a Black person, you learn at a young age how to compartmentalize. Or, you’re supposed to. There will always be the low drum of horror that tonight will be your last night, or will be the night you get a phone call about your brother, or dad, or cousin, or sister or uncle. You learn to live with the hum while you do the humdrum tasks of everyday life. Because your boss and co-workers and professors don’t know what it’s like to see someone who could’ve been you or your family taking their last breath at the hands of police, then flood your social media timelines and news channels. If you drop the ball, you don’t have an opportunity to say, “Sorry, I’m grieving someone I don’t know while thanking the universe that it isn’t my family.”
I took a few days to myself, which wasn’t difficult given that we’re all in isolation for another pandemic. But, when I looked online, things hadn’t returned to normal. And it had gone beyond George Floyd. People were sharing books and resources and anything else to help them learn about how far and deep American racism ran. Protests stretched through the streets. And something in the air just felt different in a way I couldn’t articulate.
There is an energy white people and non-Black people have never had before. Not like this. They’re, and some for the first time, seeing our grief and opening their eyes to the other things we’ve been saying for hundreds of years. They’re seeing what we see, and have been trying to get them to see. They’re going, “Wow, this is really bad.” And they’re not just talking to their Black friend(s) or their fellow liberal friends to nod along. They’re talking to the people I previously thought were out of reach. They’re looking at themselves and the systems they’ve upheld. They’re marching and shouting with us. For us.
I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime. And, I’m not a hopeful or optimistic person. But, when I look outside, it seems like the United States has reached a reckoning point, and it’s not stopping here.
Benjamin is from Dallas and lives in Brooklyn. @briabydesign
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