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Sick and tired 

The pressure of being a black man in today's America


I was driving on Central Avenue the other day and an older black gentleman pulled up beside me and told me that my passenger side light was out.

I thanked him and then immediately felt panicked. I did not want any reason to be pulled over by the authorities.

Paranoid? Some may think that I'm being irrational with my worries, but sadly I am not. And I will be the first to say that I am really just sick and tired of living this way.

I am sick and tired of having to live on high alert, all the time.

I am sick and tired of having to pretend that I am alright while constantly monitoring my fear, anxiety, rage and helplessness, especially in environments in which giving any indication that I am displeased with the ulcer-inducing, soul-crushing pressure of living under a historically systematic regime of oppression might upset the clueless bubble of privilege that many blissfully choose to operate in.

I am sick and tired of hearing about — and oftentimes seeing on the Internet — black men like Alton Sterling being killed for minor infractions like selling CDs. Sterling was like any other CD or DVD guy from your neighborhood, making rounds in the salons, barber shops and local businesses, just trying to get by on his side hustle.

I am sick and tired of barely being able to process and catch my breath before I am hit with another tragic story, like that of Philando Castile, allegedly pulled over because of a "busted tail light" similar to mine and then gunned down in front of his loved ones, including a now-traumatized four-year-old girl in the back seat. Or even more recently, Charles Kinsey, a therapist who was shot while lying on his back with his hands up, complying with police while trying to assist an autistic patient.

I am sick and tired of ordinary citizens having to keep level heads when put into impossible scenarios like the ones listed above, or like Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile's girlfriend, who had the presence of mind to live-stream the encounter on Facebook Live to ensure that their side of the story would be documented and to make sure that she and her daughter would be safe. Why do citizens have to be more level-headed than those that protect and serve? I don't teach younger kids because I know my patience is not what it used to be. If you know you do not perform well under pressure, then maybe you should be an accountant and not a police officer.

I am sick and tired of folks who are victimized and/or killed, only to have their character assassinated by the media to somehow justify the victimization.

I am sick and tired of the now-pronounced violence against women of color; women who could be my mother, aunts, sisters, nieces or other loved ones. Women wrestled like bears from their cars; authority figures snatching teen girls from bikes or slamming petite girls in bathing suits to the ground while a grown-ass man places a knee to her back.

I am sick and tired of what sometimes seems the futility of marching and protesting when it is beyond clear that as much as we scream #blacklivesmatter we live in a society that proves repeatedly that aggression, violence and victimization of brown bodies does not matter to most folks. Maybe we need to be more proactive and understand our economic and political power and stop supporting a system that does not support marginalized communities. Other communities support their own, so the black community should take note.

I am beyond sick and tired of the deafening silence coming from many white "friends" and folks who have known me for years as an artist, educator, mentor and colleague; a silence that is really an implicit message of consent to the real atrocities so many people of color face on a daily basis. I am sick and tired of seeing the same people change their profile pics in support of a gorilla or other tragedies foreign and domestic while showing little to no empathy when brown folks are being brutalized on a daily basis. No memes, no direct messages, no phone calls or even a text to ask, "Are you OK?" Worse, they share dismissive "#alllivesmatter" posts and don't see how harmful that attitude truly is.

At some point you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, and folks are starting to wake up.

Langston Hughes wrote this about black folks, but it is applicable to anyone supporting the struggle: "Negroes sweet and docile, meek, humble, and kind: Beware the day they change their minds! Wind in the cotton fields, gentle breeze: Beware the hour it uproots trees!"

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