I Can’t Breathe

It’s Wednesday, May 27th, 2020. 8:50 pm. I’m sitting on my living room floor, six ounces of rum deep, wondering if I can trust you with my truth.

I’m the COO of a modestly successful digital marketing company. We’ve weathered the big hit COVID-19 struck us, and we’re starting to come out the other side. We’ve entered some of our case studies and success stories for a couple of marketing awards.

We’ve released a shitton of our knowledge in our guides to help make digital marketing easier for people to understand. For other, shady digital marketers to steal and, hopefully, make themselves better.

I’ve been producing personal poetry at a faster clip than ever before.

I’ve also never been more depressed and scared in my life.

It’s not just seeing black protesters, unarmed and exercising their constitutionally protected rights, pelted with rubber bullets, choked with tear gas, while armed white crowds scream at, push, and shove police officers with impunity.

Who looks most dangerous?

It’s not just seeing the video of George Floyd being killed by police. It’s not just about the overwhelming scourge COVID-19 has been to black and brown communities.

It’s knowing so many well-meaning whites, who call themselves allies, remain silent.

Sure, they’ll post on their social media accounts about how all this is wrong. But, when it comes time to do something, they sit at home. Or, they tell me and my brothers and sisters we’re protesting wrong.

You shouldn’t block traffic. Don’t you know how that fucks up my commute?”

Don’t take a knee. My relatives fought for this country and you’re disrespecting them.”

It wasn’t about race. Why do you always have to make it about race?

Why do you always have to talk politics?

Get mad all you want, if you don’t march with me, you are part of the problem. All your social media posts don’t matter. We need action. If our white friends, our white allies, don’t march with us, we’ll never win.

Because they’ll open fire and kill us all.

This is why Dylan Root lived, but Tamir Rice died. Because a black man, no matter what age, no matter how docile, is worthy of death.

What’s the difference between me and you?

This is why any criminal act, any past indiscretion, is used to paint us as justifiably killable. This is why, in the age of masks, I’m scared as fuck to leave my house. I don’t want to be killed because of a “misunderstanding.” I don’t want the worst pictures of me on the national media, telling a story without using words. Telling America who they should believe I am, not who I really am. So as I sit here, typing this out, I wonder: can you handle my truth? Can you handle my emotions? Will you stand by my side? You may ask why I’m scared to trust. It’s because I’ve seen too many white friends, including ones who’ve called me brother, resort to racism when barely pushed. I’ve seen a white friend call a club doorman N***er. All the doorman did was tell my friend he couldn’t go back into the club because my friend had passed out and was obviously overserved. I’ve had another white friend tell me to my face that they mentally called a black man a N***er because the man was rude to his son. And that friend asked me why I couldn’t understand his anger. Why I thought calling the man a N***er was unjustified. I’ve had multiple people tell me I’m “one of the good ones.” See why I might be distrustful? See why I might question if I have any allies?

I’m not optimistic, but I keep fighting. Not for me, but for my niece. For her future children. For her future children’s children. Because it ain’t about making things perfect now. It’s about striving for perfection tomorrow but continuing to make things better today. Sometimes incrementally.

Let’s take a quick break for some words from Dr. King:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life—longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Like Dr. King, I know we have difficult days ahead. Like Dr. King, I would like to live a long life.

Unlike Dr. King, I’ve never been to the mountaintop. I’ve never seen the Promised Land. It’s hard for me to pick up my head each day and look forward. It’s difficult for me to pick up my feet each day and take another step forward.

But still, I rise. But still, I walk.

Will you rise with me? More importantly, will you walk with me?

I truly hope so. Otherwise, we’ll never heal. Otherwise, the killings will keep happening.

Otherwise, my face could be on your television, another black man gunned down for looking dangerous. For “resisting arrest.”

For existing as a black man in white Amerikkka.