This year, my Thanksgiving Eve was not spent dreaming of a hot meal for the holiday tomorrow or in making last minute plans with friends and family. It was the night I realize I didn’t recognize my own country and I had to question where I stood on a lot of matters involving race and personal beliefs.
To back track on how I got around to confirming this crestfallen revelation, while en route on the Greyhound to my hometown for Thanksgiving, my iPod “shuffle” was surprisingly making some really awesome selections one after the other. Still in jam mode, around 20 songs in, came Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us”, his underrated 1996 political avouchment. It’s actually always been one of my favorite MJ songs because of its ferocity and lyrics that clearly spoke of social injustice. I’ve even played this song even on a good day, but at that moment it was so apt for the current emotionally raw state of the United States. It had only been two days since a Missouri grand jury had chosen to not indict Darren Wilson for killing unarmed Michael Brown and America as I knew it was again showing frightening signs of political debility and confusion on how to properly address shades of racism. It was like Jackson had predicted this would happen, as a line in a verse includes: “I am a victim of police brutality, now, I’m tired of being the victim of hate”, just like scholar W.E.B. DuBois had. I repeated the track at least four times before moving on, but those uncomfortable feelings of America’s betrayal would stay with me.
Later that evening, As I read from a desktop computer, an array of every news brief and piece I could consume on the Ferguson protestors, Darren Wilson, Michael Brown, the disconsolate opinions of Obama’s post-indictment speech and the heartbroken notice of the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. My mother and I had discussed the mortifying story out of Cleveland about the shooting of a 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and she said the most poignant thing I’ve heard since the August shooting of Brown: “They are killing our children”. Even as I am leaving the time frame of the quarter-life crisis, I still feel like one of those children.
Following that maelstrom, I had felt…lost. For the first in my life America never looked more like a fallen iconoclast I used to love. The long string of events had stirred so many emotions that collided with each other and cynicism and an overall feeling of powerlessness greatly washed over me. I didn’t know what else to do but to acknowledge how gloomy my mood was. If I could’ve just at least walk up the stairs of Congress— hell, why not the actual house of the grand jury for Ferguson—in the kind of heels that make an entrance— knock on the doors and accost loud and clear: “America? Are you still there?”
On top my fantasy confrontation, my mind just went for the jugular. What had the judicial done, for real this time? Why aren’t we post-racial? It’s not Obama’s fault. Exactly how am I supposed to celebrate July 4th in 2015? How can I be a proud American when the world is once again laughing at your perpetual conflict with race and as you nearly confirm you don’t anyone not Black very much?American traditions suddenly felt like a crock to me and I really wondered if all those “blame Whitey” people like Marcus Garvey were right along. My radical side definitely came out as well as I was more obliged than ever to pick up some Cornel West and bell hooks books. Educate my ass. Please.
I eventually went to bed to rest, and my brain was leaking from all the information and opinions I had taken in. I slept with gratitude even if it was on American soil, but also overwhelmed as for the week of Thanksgiving there was an odd amalgamation of should we be grateful at least that it wasn’t us that fateful August 9 day and when will the tragedies like stop?
The next day I felt a little lighter, but America’s past and present was still haunting my hope and peace for the new day. My and mother had gone out for a day in the city, to clear our minds. For me, it was both personal and professional.
For the most part, it was a great day. Fall was in the air and I was back home in a town that was sorely missed. When we took a break inside of the Prudential Center mall, while sitting on the bench, I saw a little white boy with his mother and presumably his dad close to him as he went to gaze and touch a mall Christmas tree. I watched him with a sad smile as I wondered if his parents would ever have to wonder about their child being shot at the age of 12 or 18. Sadly, I concluded with, probably not.
By day’s end, I eventually got around to the other and last bothersome reality of America’s turn of events, it was my personal relationship with Black men. I know, and do not need the news to tell me, that Black men have been the most attacked group in our nation by the police force, but like many women of color, my kinship with them has been like sitting in a perpetual rollercoaster.
Sometimes, I feel, as a Black woman, Afro-Latina, a woman of color, I feel they are not on our side. I want to view them as not even underground but robust kings, but when I see in the news of another arrest or studies of how they are still behind us in education and the job market, I feel pity and disappointment, only to then be inflamed by anger. Black men have participated in the lampooning of Black women online and sometimes even in public (believe when I say I’ve heard disparaging comments at past jobs) and while for the most part Black male politicians would defend a missing black girl or a Black woman in search of justice, I noticed that for campaigns like #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS per usual all the women of color entertainers re-posted and re-tweeted, but I only found two male rappers that joined the cause. I also can’t help but wonder would they march for us in the streets the way we have for slain or disappeared Black men? And I still find it out unexplainable that sometimes the stereotype rings true of the successful Black and brown woman that’s smart, has a great or honest job, completed job, cute face and body and still finds it hard to find a good Black man while seemingly so many remain obsessed with interracially dating. In 2014, to see a Black family is almost startlingly in a big city because there has been so much publicity and fascination (still) with miscegenation (archaic term). I hate to even include that last bit because I really don’t care, it’s none of my business, and I had and got my own romantic tales to be increased with. I know love is love, and “Black love” is out there! I am not against interracial dating and I wouldn’t be listening to Tinashe’s music if it wasn’t for interracial mating. But I really can’t help but occasionally think when I see a Black man not with a Black woman, that’s one more Black woman without and so many are not willing to date outside Black and brown men. What’s a sista to do?
With the passings of so many Black men (the list has gotten longer and longer that also includes Black women like Renisha McBride and Tanesha Anderson), I’m beginning to feel awful that they are clearly targeted by an unfair judicial system. When a writer for the website ForHarriet bravely wrote a piece about not marching for Eric Garner back in the summer of 2014, I was all here, here! about it. Now, I’m beginning to see the bigger picture of maybe why I should have and how I want to.
I know that the Ferguson decision won’t magically change things within the Black community inner circle. It’s an inidivdual choice and I still see some of the same bullshit patterns. Some Black men will court women based on skin-tone and Afrocentric Black men want to convert the rest of us Black America.
All in all, the climate of Ferguson affected me up here in the Northeast. I was moved to reflect on my feelings about race, Black men, if I really do understands the literal politics of America, and how I desire to be quicker, smarter, and faster. I’m not sure what the non-indictment of Darren Wilson will mean for the land of the free, I do stand behind all those that chose to protest it. I hope it is not selfish of me to also imagine what this fusillade of life changing introspections really mean for my continued development into adulthood in the future as well.