By now, you should be tired.
Alton Sterling was the 558th person to be killed by the US police in 2016. Philando Castile was the 559th. Two innocent black men who have been killed in the last week. We know their names, but I can guarantee that there have been other black people whose lives have been robbed, but whose names we do not know. And there will be more.
Being black in America is so different to being black in Britain, but I am still mourning.
Let me tell you a story.
In this story, a 15-year-old black boy would not have to watch a video of his father being shot by the police go viral around the world. In this story, his father, Alton Sterling, would not have been killed at all. His name would not become a part of an ever-growing list of black lives that have been taken prematurely. Black people would not be routinely murdered. Black people would not live in a constant paradox of wanting to live, to really live, but knowing they could be next. In this story, Diamond Reynolds would not have to create a Facebook livestream to document the murder of her boyfriend, Philando Castile, just to prove that the police aren’t here to “protect and serve [black people]”, but rather to “assassinate us”. Dae’Anna, her daughter, would not be robbed of her childhood innocence. Black people would not be accustomed to mourning our people and somehow filling the gaping holes in our heart with something. We would not have to do, or perform, the unthinkable, just so we can survive. In this story, black women would not have to be super-(s)heroes, or superhuman.
In this story, there would be no need to say that Black Lives Matter.
I want my daddy back.
I am tired of seeing another black body assaulted and killed; tired of worrying that somebody I know and love could be the next person
I did not watch the videos. I will not watch the videos, because I am tired. Maybe you are not tired. But I am. Tired of seeing another black body assaulted and killed; tired of hearing the wails from a loved one, wails of pain that come from the deepest corner of their gut; tired of seeing no justice; tired of hearing gunshots and seeing blood and the loss of life; tired of seeing lives snatched too early; tired of marching; tired of living in fear; tired of worrying that somebody I know and love could be the next person.
There are too many names and they roll off my tongue too quickly. I have spent time learning their names, learning the names of black people that have been murdered for no good reason. I have spent time learning the names of dead black people: Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Tanisha Anderson. Rekia Boyd. Freddie Gray. Sandra Bland. There are names here, too: Sarah Reed. Cherry Groce. Sheku Bayoh. Christopher Alder. Mark Duggan. The UK is not innocent.
This is how it goes. They kill us, we mourn, we are exhausted, we believe in hope, just a little, we see no justice. Rinse, repeat.
You with the loud shoes.
Those words are what the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told DeRay Mckesson, a prominent protester and organiser within the Black Lives Matter movement, before arresting him. The image of Mckesson with the words “Stay Woke” boldly displayed in black across his chest is etched in my memory. That phrase has been echoing around in my brain since my friend in the US informed me at 4am on Sunday.
Thank you for joining The Pool
Aren’t you tired?
After the deaths of Sterling and Catile, my closest friend in the US told me that she was going to drive two hours away from her hometown in Virginia, to go on a protest. “Be safe,” I told her, my heart racing. “Nothing will happen to me,” she replied. Nothing will happen, I told myself, over and over, erasing the incidents of violence that have been inflicted on peaceful protesters.
I don’t know what it’s really like to be black in America, because it is not my experience. But, from the outside, it feels like pain. It feels like a deep, deep pain that cuts beneath the surface and penetrates your bones, a pain that makes your body rigid. It feels like one is never truly alive, just not dead. It makes my heart bleed, thinking about parents telling their black children that we do not always want you to shine bright but, rather, we just want you alive. “To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage almost all the time,” wrote James Baldwin. To be black in America feels like one will experience both rage and helplessness at the same time.
It’s OK, I’m right here with you.
Dae’Anna, a four-year-old girl, had to comfort her mother as she came to terms with the fact that one second her boyfriend was here, and the next he was not. Dae’Anna is a black girl who has been thrust into the reality, robbed of her childhood innocence, reminded that, to survive as both black and female in this world, she must be superhuman. There is no such thing as a weak black woman and, yes, there are problems with that stereotype, but we have strength. We are strong. We are out here, like Beyoncé says, “struggling for our freedom and our human rights”, but we must demand that they “stop killing us”.
I am tired. I am so tired. But we will recover, because black people always have and always will, and we will come out of the mist, ready to rage and ready to fight because we need freedom, too. And we will rise. We will rise. We will rise. We will rise.
By now, you should be tired.