Open Letter: What Do I Do, What Do You Do?
Pray first. I don't see enough God in this at all. So pray. Often.
Honestly, I don't know.
I am an African American man. Born here. Down south actually. In Mississippi.
I have seen and experienced racism first hand.
I have been called nigger.
I can't begin to tell you the emotions that just went through me typing that word.
I can't tell you the times I have had to wonder if this is it? Not knowing how far this it was going to go. Getting berated, treated unfairly, beaten, shot, killed.
There was one time in Mississippi when my mom had moved us out of the projects to this little housing area just barely on the outskirts of town. Surrounded by fields where they grew all types of stuff. You kind of had to get through the fields to get to this little park area. And it was beside a country road. I remember me and some friends of mine playing out there one day. Shooting basketball. And a green pickup truck drove by. Filled with men in the back. White men. Shouting and gesturing and waving. Saying things children, let alone black children, should never hear. They didn't stop. And amazingly enough, after standing there for a minute and absorbing it, neither did we. We went back to playing. That's how it was.
I remember my dad, who was a field agent for the State of Michigan (MESC), talking about going to a business to address them about some employment issues and such. And he let me know that the guy there told him that it would probably be best that he be out of town by sundown.
I've been through it. My family has been through it.
I remember when I became a teenager, I left my mom and came to live in Michigan with my dad. And on occasion I went back home to visit my mom.Older. Bigger. Taller. Stronger. Mom and I went to a store and I noticed how this lady was eyeballing us and following us and giving us the look. Down south. Mississippi. This is now 80's/90's time frame. I was going to speak up and say something. I was angry. I was hot. My mom stopped me. Baby, you know how it is down here.
Guess we had to know our place and accept it.
That brings me to the here and now.
People are no longer comfortable with that mentality.
Things have been happening for far too long. With a blind eye being turned to it. Injustices. Deaths. Now on camera.
And at one point in time, it was our word against theirs.
If only you had proof.
Now we do.
And we still get the same thing.
It's hard writing this.
But the most difficult thing for me is thinking about how a man went running. And he had one of those moments I described above.
And he was chased and cut off and surrounded by some men in a truck. With guns. And at some moment, he probably thought, oh man...is this it?
And it was.
He was shot. Executed.
And it was filmed.
And after he was shot, he laid there dying in the middle of the road. Bleeding out. With no one to help him. Crying. Dying.
His name was Ahmaud Arbery.
And that video haunts me to this day. That could have been me. And those kids on that playground. Or my nephews. And it happened because of the color of his skin. Same as mine.
Then there is Minneapolis.
George Floyd. That's his name.
Can you imagine? Well you don't have to, you've seen the photos and videos.
You are being choked out. Over a what, check forgery charge. You can't breathe. The cops are on your neck and back. You are dying. And there are people mere feet away from you. And no one is helping you. You are being publicly executed.
No one could help him. No one did.
Here's a short list. Check the names and why.
Eric Garner had just broken up a fight, according to witness testimony.
Ezell Ford was walking in his neighborhood.
Michelle Cusseaux was changing the lock on her home's door when police arrived to take her to a mental health facility.
Tanisha Anderson was having a bad mental health episode, and her brother called 911.
Tamir Rice was playing in a park.
Natasha McKenna was having a schizophrenic episode when she was tazed in Fairfax, Va.
Walter Scott was going to an auto-parts store.
Bettie Jones answered the door to let Chicago police officers in to help her upstairs neighbor, who had called 911 to resolve a domestic dispute.
Philando Castile was driving home from dinner with his girlfriend.
Botham Jean was eating ice cream in his living room in Dallas.
Atatiana Jefferson was babysitting her nephew at home in Fort Worth, Texas.
Eric Reason was pulling into a parking spot at a local chicken and fish shop.
Dominique Clayton was sleeping in her bed.
Breonna Taylor was also asleep in her bed.
And George Floyd was at the grocery store. (NPR)
I have had my white friends ask me what can they do. I have had my fellow brothers and sisters engage me in debate because I don't support burning down and destroying our own neighborhoods. I have had close friends debate me about shooting looters and that slippery slope.
And my president.
Posturing with a bible for a photo op.
What to do? What do I think we should do?
Stop that list of names from growing. Educate yourself. Speak up. Vote.
But most importantly, pray.
And no. I'm not alright. Not at all.