A Glimpse Into My Life

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Tag Archives: Emanuel AME

The Benefit of Humanity

Last night, I tossed and turned hoping that sleep would welcome me into its embrace. No such thing happened and I decided to write.

It’s hard to rest when your heart and spirit are weary. It is hard to breathe when it feels as though your chest has filled with water. I came to understand that my weariness was the realization that I could awake tomorrow to news of another “tragedy” and the feeling of it being hard to breathe was grief complicated beyond measure.

In Charleston, in a place of worship and refuge, nine Black American citizens gathered to safely study and learn of the grace and gift of God. They welcomed a stranger, as Jesus commanded many to do before them. They offered this stranger a place to sit and share and breathe and live. For an hour, this stranger did just that. And in an instant, the stranger became a terrorist.

Nine of those gathered within a holy space were murdered for merely existing.

As news of this tragedy spread along with the description of all victims and the sole perpetrator, I could see this to be a calculated measure spurred by the deeply entrenched notion of Black people as something to be feared.

Something. Not someone.

Like clockwork, media began to ask questions that I am sure are considered hard-hitting and cutting-edge to someone. Questions such as “What could these Black people have done to prevent this?” and “Should white people now be afraid of black people?” Absurd questions when you think of it because who would think that you would ever need to protect yourself in a place of worship that sits in a land built on freedom of worship?

Unfortunately, we then heard the questions, comments, and suggestions made about the man who murdered these innocent people. Things like “What would possess him to do this?” and “Maybe there is a mental illness that we don’t know about.” Most ludicrous of all were the statements “Allow him due process under the law.” and “Let’s not judge him in the court of public opinion.

This adult male, aged 21-years old at the time he coldly executed people in a calculated fashion, was given the benefit of his humanity.

Black Americans watched as many defended this many and simultaneously deflected the notion that it was a terrorist attack with racial motivations EVEN AFTER he admitted this to be the reason he murdered these people. Black Americans learned that there were people who knew about this plot for months but dismissed it as just “talk.”

Most offensively, Black Americans watched as the police apprehended him peacefully.

You see? Because of the benefit of his humanity, this man will see his day in court. And when he does, they will uphold it as evidence that the justice system is fair.

And so I write this as a reflection of what it means to be Black and a Woman and American and operate daily within a system that was built on the backs of my ancestors.

People do not care that I must grapple with my Black identity as I walk on streets named after Confederate generals who fought wholeheartedly to keep the institution of slavery as we learn about it in school in place (the North will have a day of reckoning behind their involvement in slavery).

No one bats an eye at the thought that we frequent financial institutions that descendants of slaveholders were allowed to open with wealth amassed while Black bodies were treated as chattel.

We are given weak apologies from some of the finest educational institutions in the world for their involvement in the dehumanization of Black people.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to move on and act peacefully in our grief as we point out that this is always about the fear of Blackness.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told these instances of terrorism that make the news are isolated incidents when in actuality they support the system of disenfranchisement upholding the status quo.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are told to erase our culture and identities as that is what makes us animals while being expected to swallow the offensive performance of Blackness executed by those who benefit from White Privilege.

Be quiet, Slave.

We are expected to go along with the “program” of acceptable outrage that demonstrates that you can be upset someone would wear fur but not that police will murder your children in the streets and let their blood run into the gutter.

Be quiet, Slave.

In the many institutions that make up the complex fabric of the United States of America, Black Bodies are seen as expendable, yet necessary, to move the wheel of systemic and systematic oppression forward. And we know the reality is we are not even viewed as human enough, worthy enough, to warrant outrage behind being slaughtered like animals. We are not seen as human enough to warrant the removal of offensive reminders of the past.

We are not seen as human.

The sad reality is that many who benefit from White Privilege view our mere existence as trivial. They do not see us as we walk down the street. They do not place money in our hands when we serve them in our jobs. They do not acknowledge the idea of personal space belonging to a Black person. And while there are a few brave allies willing to put their good names on the line for what it right, many of them unknowingly uphold the system that invaded our countries, the bodies of our mothers and fathers, and our psyches.

I sit with this heavy on my heart as I count down to another birthday, something the nine victims of an attack spurred by racism can no longer do. I have come to understand that my Blackness, as amazing and divinely inspired as it is, serves as an iron veil that would never allow me the benefit of humanity.

And so, I write their names below with the idea that it is just another reminder that they did matter. More than melanin and blood and bone, they were spirits who touched the lives of others. They were mothers who gave birth to children. They were fathers who molded the minds of those under them. They were neighbors. They worked. They loved. They hurt. They laughed. They cried. They welcomed strangers.

They prayed.

They were human. They were people. They will be remembered.

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41.

Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 54.

Myra Thompson, 59.

Tywanza Sanders, 26.

Ethel Lee Lance, 70.

Cynthia Hurd, 54.

Daniel L. Simmons, 74.

Suzy Jackson, 87.

Rev. DePayne Doctor, 49.

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