I’m reminded of where I was two years ago on July 4th, 2013. I was at my mother’s home, just south of Boston, watching the trial of George Zimmerman unfold. That was when I started a series on this very same blog chronicling Trayvon Martin, and how a jury could come to terms with the weighty decision that he deserved to die.
The following year, just a week after July 4th, Eric Garner had the unlucky circumstances of being black on the wrong day. That next month, an unarmed black 17-year-old was murdered, and his body was left in the middle of the street for almost 5 hours. His name was Michael Brown. He wasn’t a drug dealer, but he was a college-bound high school graduate, but reports show those details can’t overshadow blackness.
Two days later, I went to Malawi, and as the news of protests reached me on the coast of Lake Malawi, I was undergoing my own kind of emancipating, soul-freeing experience that America could never give me. But from the trial of George Zimmerman, to the death of Michael Brown a year later, I could see that Black America’s “freedom” came with a set of terms and conditions.
6 months later, a jury would decide that Brown, just like Trayvon, deserved to die. I couldn’t find the words…I still can’t. It hurts to see the state dismiss your humanity, but it hurts even more to see the people who you love not value your life back. I made the choice to burn some bridges these last couple months. Not simply because differing philosophies, but as an act of self love, and in solidarity with the life of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and the list that goes on…..
Two years later, as a black man, 2015 has been a sobering year for me. Black people are being killed on the streets, for carrying toy guns, for having fake IDs, and for going to church–the one place that has served as a safe haven for black America throughout history.
We can’t breathe, and for some, we can’t even pray.
On July 4th, this ain’t freedom, or much different than the picture Frederick Douglas painted on July 4th, 1852 of what freedom isn’t.
It has never been my intention to write solely about race on this blog, but it’s as if I’m given no choice. Two years ago, the American justice system showed us how broken it was through dishonoring the life of Trayvon Martin. I’m wondering how many more of these posts I will have to write. How many more names will be added to the list of stories we must honor, because no one else will?
Nothing about this feels good. Nothing about today, in 2015, feels like we are even close to being post-racial, or post-racist. Richard Wright’s words in “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow” still speak to the black American experience, of how race can get you killed, and still I need to explain to the world why my life should be valued.
It’s unbearable to think about: that they are killing us openly and un-apologetically, but we still must debate our right to live, let alone be “free.”
“Freedom! You askin me about freedom. Askin me about freedom?
I’ll be honest with you. I know a whole more about what freedom isn’t, than about what it is, cause I’ve never been free” – Assata Shakur