When my nephew called me a few days ago, I was glad to hear from him but could sense an uneasiness in his voice. When I asked, “how are you sweetheart, what’s going on,” rather than the standard niceties, my 30 year old nephew began to rant about his experience as a Black man in America. He began his pouring out by saying “policeman lay in wait for me, Aunt De.”
First, a little background: His worldly physicality – 5’8, deep dark-skin, neatly cropped dread locks, drives a Cadillac. His nurtured mentality – high school graduate, conscientious, works two jobs, father to a son, stepfather to a daughter, a poet, eldest son and first born male in the family’s 4th generation. His innate spirituality – God-fearing, laid back, mellow, thoughtful, easy-going, elevated and enlightening.
Over more than ten years – the first decade of his adult life — he has worked to eradicate the stigma of a troubled past and is, to this day, striving to live a righteous life. Yet, on this day — the snow providing a needed reprieve from school runs and reporting to first one, then a second job — he finds himself sitting in a parking lot, crying because of the state of his life in America.
On this snowy day in February 2014, he has driven to the cleaners to drop off some clothes. As he sits in his car reflecting over the last few days of his life, he looks up to find he is under surveillance. The police car that was exiting as he entered the lot, has circled back and is parked next to him. The officer is just looking, seemingly waiting for a reason to interrogate, not caring about his tears. Unaware that he is crying because the police have arbitrarily stopped him earlier in the week as he is on his way home after dropping his babies off at school (to question, of all things, an air freshener and covered tag). Unaware that he is crying because he is pondering how to downplay the appearance of privilege he is working for for his son so that he will not be a target in this hostile environment. Unaware that he is crying because the woman he wants to love is wholly unprepared to support him in his struggle – she thinks her sexuality is enough. Unaware that he is crying because it is the 10th anniversary of his uncle’s suicide, an uncle who honorably served his country as a Marine during Desert Storm to round out a more than 20 year stint of government service, only to put a bullet in his temple when he could no longer deal with the storm of police profiling that occurred practically everyday of his 43 year life.
My nephew’s tears break my heart too, now have me in tears. Like the grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts of young Black boys and men in America, I cannot hug, love or talk him into a state of protection that will ensure his safety. I am trying to figure out what to do, but I have been fighting this fight since 1973. Marching, sitting-in, making love not war, rioting, writing, praying, believing, following leaders committed to making a difference, even helping to elect a Black man to the White House – for more than four decades.
What else must I do to save my future generations from the pressures of being Black in a QUASI beautiful America?
“. . . Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth, let a people loving freedom come to growth, let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now rise and take control!” (Margaret Walker)
Or shall I adopt/adapt the attitude/altitude of Claude McKay and take one last stand with this generation now under attack:
If we must die, let it not be like hogs hunted and penned in an inglorious spot. . .. Like men we’ll face the murderous cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
I consider myself spiritually enlightened, but in the wake of all of the Martins, Davises, Hawkinses and the list of marginalized or murdered Black men, women and children that is becoming much too long to easily recount, my 21st century thinking seems out of place.
So what do you think? #isittime2actyet