Opinion: Rethinking Love and Hate in America
July 10, 2020 @ 10:00am
Many of my close Black friends would be apolitical if it weren’t for the color of their skin. Most would prefer to be consumed just with their day-to-day: acquiring their first commercial property, telling better jokes onstage, or figuring out when to leave their cush job and finally become the entrepreneur they spend all of their time dreaming about.
I like witty and dramatic TV, and other dope art in whatever format catches my attention most. I couldn’t tell you how to contribute to Black Lives Matter. I’d be like, “Google it,” or “Check activist Shaun King’s Instagram.” I’m not even sure I’d be sending folks in the right direction. At my core, I’m just a regular dude who is always trying to sort out my personal shit and achieve the things I want in life – without drowning.
I’m a guy who is clinically depressed, so I jog. I really enjoy it. I feel like my ears are brought closer to music as I do it. I value the mood I earn after a solid workout. It’s everything. I used to jog through Rock Creek Park early in the morning. I’m a morning person and that’s the time of day I’m most joyous. But I stopped jogging around 6:30 a.m. because something about the energy was off on those streets.
I started to recognize a dark glare from some white drivers – not all, but enough to make me feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t doing anything aggressive. I was just a black man in motion. Funnily enough, what they didn’t realize is one song on my jogging playlist was Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue.” I remember telling a friend of mine, “I feel like one of these trucks is just going to roll up on me and do some crazy shit.”
I was told I was being paranoid. I ignored them. I told myself, “They aren’t there.” There were people out exercising early, but not as many. You’d often be by yourself during certain portions. Long story short, I switched up the time of day I jogged to have more people around. Then, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while on a jog, and I thought about the Kurt Cobain quote, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
So much has transpired since, including the murder of George Floyd. Cities went up in flames, police were being arrested for their actions and around the globe – not just in the U.S. – Black people let the world know we really do matter. Mayor Bowser got in a tug-of-war with our president that escalated to the point that in the middle of the night, she had artists – guarded by Department of Public Works trucks – paint a large mural that read “Black Lives Matter” in yellow letters. Other cities painted either the same mural or their own iteration, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, Austin and Cincinnati. I’m sure there will be others.
Let me also be quite frank: This work was not done overnight. Like any movement, I’m always taken aback by the years of work done by countless individuals pushing initiatives on the street, in the courts or on the House floor. But for a second, among a lot of heat, there was much-needed mist. There was a rush of public support on our behalf from groups and organizations we didn’t expect. I certainly wasn’t expecting non-Black friends from high school to be posting a black image on their Instagram feed in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Conversations shifted in our inner circles. Blacks previously pessimistic and pushed to a place of militancy were hopeful. My 72-year-old father told me that my generation has pushed for change he didn’t think imaginable. For the first time, many more non-Blacks have thoughtfully considered appropriate messaging for their children and loved ones to halt the spread of racism.
But this still hasn’t been enough. Just when you thought things couldn’t get even more racially unpleasant, now we have men dangling from trees with nooses around their necks in Palmdale and Victorville, California, and another in Manhattan – all initially ruled suicides. I feel like that’s just something news outlets say to prevent Blacks from revolting. Do we really need lynchings right now? What is this, the Red Summer? As if the noose of injustice wasn’t burning our pink throats already. Now we’re being strung up to fight for air and hang from a tree as some strange, barefoot fruit, like a black-and-white photo from the past. But the past never left. We still cuddle her every night.
After a while, it is hard to see the point of sitting people down to play them video after video of our people dying. While this struggle is ours, we deserve a backseat in this. Let whites march, bang pans in the middle of the street and honk at Black Live Matters signs. Most of this work isn’t upon us. We’ve done the heavy lifting. We are exhausted. It is upon them to delete and rebuild how they view Black people. Let’s start there.
America, this much is clear: There is beauty to this land, to its ideals and diversity. But you have toxic children, which makes our stay unsustainable. So fix this shit, and text me when you’re done.
David Ross is a creative director living in Washington, D.C. Follow him @dross706 on Instagram and Twitter.
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