I have a nasty confession to make: I can’t read many of the articles related to Ferguson. I was at the gym, standing with other black men when the grand jury verdict came in. We all respectfully dropped our weights and stood around the television broadcasting CNN. It was silent, and there were no subtitles, but we stood there anyway. We watched jarring red and white headlines, and grim stills of other protesters standing in darkness, while the grand jury room was all blond wood and light. I, frantically scrolling through my phone, told them the verdict as it came in.
I already knew what would happen. I can’t confess surprise. I was, however, shocked at my own emotional response. I wanted to hurl weights far too heavy for me at the mirrors on the walls of my bright, month old gym. I wanted to throw my iPhone across the room. I wanted to cry. I was, and still am heartbroken. Even though I feel lucky to be alive. Even though I feel blessed to have my family with me. Even though I just received my stiffly starched diploma, a symbol of 8 years of dedication and sacrifice, in the mail.
I’ve been silent because I retreat when I am sad. Right now we have guests over, and I am in my apartment alone, with a glass of wine, writing, because I cannot deal with the fact that black children all over this country are being murdered, often by people who are meant to protect them. I am alone, crying, because I cannot deal with the fact that the lives of myself and my family members are deemed less worthy of protection by the U.S. government. I am alone, praying, because I do not know what to do. I didn’t bother getting a pedicure I desperately need because I want to stand with others who abstain from giving hard earned money to institutions who do not believe in the sanctity of human lives. I sat reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, clutching it because it offers me a reprieve from the emotional hardship of being alive in a world that refuses to see black boys and girls as children.
I’m sitting in stillness, as I have for family members who have passed on, because it is the only way I know to honor their lives. I’m sitting in prayer, because I still believe that God Almighty is just. I’m sitting in silence because I do not have the energy to contribute to really wonderful and necessary conversations about race, history and justice in America.
The articles come in like a flood. My Facebook feed has become a war zone. Every day, there are more stories of more deaths. I’m operating from a space of grief. I’m desperate for healing. And I struggle to understand how my life can be a banner for justice, peace and love.
I came home from the gym that night angry, sweaty, and defeated. I gave one of my brothers a hug. Love and respect to my family members and to those around me are the only things I, in a grief stricken state, could offer. A kind word, a hug, carefully constructed criticisms of a racist, patriarchal structure–those are the only things I can offer at this time. I will have to be okay with that.