The last few weeks have brought a shift I wasn’t sure I would ever experience in my lifetime. I’m watching people of all colors march together, masked and peaceful, shouting for the end of police brutality and the equality of Black people. I’ve received hundreds of emails declaring that Black lives matter from companies I assumed would shy away from supporting this movement. White friends are calling me to discuss race relations in America, asking me how they can do better. “Black Lives Matter” is written across the pavement right in front of the White House, trolling the very man that lives there.
This whole moment in history is mind-blowing. It’s inspiring, beautiful, intense, transformational and magical. But to be fully transparent, there is a tiny part of me that is terrified this will be some sort of trend, like the Ice Bucket Challenge or Drake’s “In My Feelings” dance. Here one day, forgotten the next (no shade). I can’t help but worry that our social media feeds, now bursting with support for people of color, will move on to the next social issue in a matter of weeks.
Maybe I’m just being cynical. Maybe this is the grand turning point all Black folks have longed for. Or, maybe a few things will change and the rest will resume business as usual. Maybe I’m suffering from some sort of PTSD stemming from the emotional trauma that I’ve suppressed my entire life, the trauma that comes with being a black woman in America, and perhaps this is where the haze of distrust comes from. I’ve definitely experienced flashbacks over the last few weeks—memories of moments I was made to feel less than, worse off or not as valuable as a white person. Reminders of how those moments threatened my self-confidence and self-worth.
I pray that the passion for this movement doesn’t wane when the next buzzy story dominates the news cycle.
Either way, all this focus on race has put me in a deeply reflective state. The videos of George Floyd, Amy Cooper and Omar Jimenez did quite a number of my emotions. I have been fluctuating from anger to fear to depression to sadness to joy, then back to anger. In George Floyd I see my father, my brothers, my uncles and cousins, and the possibility of something like that happening to them shatters my heart.
Watching the Christian Cooper and Omar Jimenez videos, I see myself. I see Christian Cooper left with no choice but to videotape a woman falsely accusing him of endangering her, knowing that catching the moment on film is the only way to prove his innocence. In the woman, I see every white person I’ve worked with who’s ever used tears, lies, false accusations or a surprising amount of acting chops to tear me down rather than admit to their own mistakes. In Omar Jimenez, I see that no matter how well I educate myself, no matter how well I carry myself, I can still be stripped of my dignity with no explanation at a moment’s notice, simply because a white person feels like doing so.
I’m generally an optimistic and happy-go-lucky person, but these videos brought feelings of pain and weariness that I wasn’t aware I had inside me, pulling these dark emotions out of the shadows as eclipses always do. Watching these moments of racial injustice caught on film brings a rush of unexpected skepticism in regard to how the world has been responding.
When I see social media users, news and media platforms and brands rallying in support of justice, I find myself fearful that they’re only doing so to save face, not because they’re truly passionate about the issue of racial inequality. Keeping silent could lead to backlash they’d rather not deal with; it’s easier to make a post or two on Instagram, slip an organization a donation and move on. I wonder if these companies will actually make changes to their current structures and become more inclusive after aligning themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement. I wonder if there are Black people in their boardrooms to weigh in on these discussions. If there aren’t, I wonder if they even notice.
After 14 days of processing and reflecting, I am working to release my fear of this all being a trend. I’m choosing instead to focus on embracing the moment and remaining hopeful that these companies will see to it that their policies align with their hashtags. I ask the universe that all the love and support I see on social media and at peaceful protests will be lasting. I hope that this is a true societal shift happening before our very eyes. That all my brothers and sisters are finally being seen for the beautiful, gifted, magical people that they are.
I ask that their voices are finally listened to, that the burden of their pain be eased and their worth be fully appreciated. I pray for optimism, to believe with my whole heart that these companies singing “Black Lives Matter” will make good on their promises. That they will step up their recruitment, elevate more black executives, diversify their boards, create more diversity programs and invest in black-owned businesses. I pray that the passion for this movement doesn’t wane when the next buzzy story dominates the news cycle.
In the end, I do believe that the Black kids coming after me will be greeted with far more openness and support than I ever was, in the same way that I was more accepted than my parents, and they more so than their parents. If change doesn’t happen—if society doesn’t follow through on its promise to reform, if there is still no seat at the table of justice for Black lives—there will still be folks like me doing the work ourselves, chopping our own wood and building our own tables, like Beyoncé said. I suppose not giving me a seat would be their loss, anyway.