Witness…

Photo credit: Assassin's Creed.

Photo credit: Assassin’s Creed.

A couple of months ago I was the witness of a crime. It happened so fast, yet things seemed to go in slow motion, all at the same time. It was early evening. The street lights barely flickering in the glow of the sunset. The breeze was calm, with a tinge of humidity woven in. It was a calm and beautiful evening. I was running errands when two perpetrators caught my eye. I felt guilty for pegging them as such – one was the same skin tone as mine, and the other was a shade darker. They were young, they were Black, and they were males. In my head and my heart was a tug of war, and a telepathic conversation that I hoped they were receiving via my glances. “Whatever you are thinking of doing, please, please don’t do it.” They didn’t heed my message. In the blink of an eye, they took a person’s personal belongings. He gave chase, but they were too fast. I called the police – who was to say that weapons wouldn’t have been drawn? Or someone could have gotten hurt or killed? I couldn’t just let this event happen without helping. What if I were the victim?

Approximately 10 minutes later, the police arrived. Several witnesses stepped forward, including me. Call me a snitch – so what. If the same thing happened to you, wouldn’t you want someone to speak on your behalf? Yet, I still felt a sense of sadness and frustration. Why didn’t those guys just walk away? As I was giving my statement to the officer, he mentioned to me how this was his beat, and that he had only been gone for 20 minutes to serve as back up on a shooting call across town. “I was just here,” he said, “if only I had had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.” In that moment I wondered, what if the officer had been there? What would have transpired? Would his presence have made these guys take a second guess about their potential actions, or would they still have carried out their mission? If the officer were there, would he have felt threatened and needed to use force or let off some warning shots to make them stop? If the officer had been there, would the place that these young men last stood become their memorial? A curb covered with candle wax, liquor, and flowers? Or would their names be hash tagged along with #HandsUpDontShoot? What if? Given the outcomes that the poor combination of itchy trigger fingers and dark-skinned males continue to have, in addition to past and present transgressions, as well as my own lived experience – it’s hard for me to say that anything positive would have resulted from his presence. And that’s sad. It’s sad because it doesn’t have to be. It’s sad for the children that may not make it to adulthood. It’s sad for those that will be fortunate to survive, only to ravaged by the insidious nature of racism. It’s sad for the children I hope to have some day. It’s sad for the generation to follow.

However, in spite of how sad such outcomes could be – they are not destined to happen. We do not have to let such attitudes and actions continue to be the social norm. We gotta let go of this bystander mentality in order for a sprout of positivity to grow. My hope is that someday, God willing, my future son can walk down the street on a cold day with his hoodie up. And make it home alive, or without being covered in the stench of temptation, negativity, and harassment.

Invisible…

When I was a child, and would tell my grandmother I have seen it all – she would often respond, “just keep livin’.” In spite of all the ISMS trainings, workshops, and such that I have participated in – the different town hall discussions and work sessions I have gone through, I am always puzzled as to why the ignorance that is perpetuated within various forms of Isms (i.e. racism, sexism, ageism, etc.) is able to still thrive. I guess for me, as a young health professional of color,  the more opportunities I get to have a seat at the table to inform critical decisions on how to better serve the community – the more opportunities I find myself being invisible to those that have been at that table for a long time, and are oblivious (I’m assuming) to the privilege they carry and assert.

It’s funny, whenever I respond to the ice breaker question: If you had a super power, what would it be? I always respond with the power of being invisible – so I can have the ability to get the “scoop” on things without being seen. How cool?! How awesome?! How powerful?!

It’s funny to me though, that in reality, that this “ability” is not seen as a power – that instead, when enacted, this characteristic is placed on you by others with the intent of “keeping you in your place” and preventing your voice, presence, and perspective from having an existence. How frustrating. How unfair. How powerless.

For example, recently I had an encounter with an individual that placed this super power on me. I had met them several times in similar forums (i.e. meetings, workshops, etc.) and have had fair amount of communication via e-mail, yet they spoke to me as if they had never met me before. More so, when I extended my hand to say hello – she just stared at me as she walked closer, totally by passing the salutation I was extending. Maybe since it’s cold and flu season, they don’t want to shake hands? I kinda doubt it – especially since they had briefly glanced at my hand, and never extended theirs in return. An awkward intro to what proved to be an awkward and uncomfortable conversation.

Them:(looking me up and down) Are you new? I have never seen you before.

Me: No, I have been in this field for quite some time, I have actually met you at various meetings and trainings.

Long pause –

Them: Hmmmm

Me: (perplexed)

I begin to try and help steer this convo for further going in to awkwardville, when we are approached by another individual who totally disregards my presence and launches into a personal conversation with who I will now refer to as the “bringer of invisibility.”

Again, I extend my hand to greet this interrupter, only to be disregarded again – the equivalent of being Heismanned – two times in a row!

heisman

In such a situation, I’d would hope that proper etiquette would have been implored – i.e. apologizing for disrupting a conversation, or apologize for allowing the “interrupter” to take over the conversation. But alas, that didn’t happen – the shell of invisibility that shrouded me became thicker and thicker. Was I being too sensitive? Was I in Bizarro world? In looking at my colleague, I quickly knew it was neither. My colleague was giving me the look of: Girl, you got dissed! You got the stop sign! You got kicked to the curb!!!

Yeap, that’s exactly what happened. This was further confirmed as the interrupter and “bringer of invisibility” walked away as they carried on their jovial conversation.

Situations in which ISMS or all around rudeness is  prevalent burns my britches – but then I have to step back and realize that whatever problems they have with me or folks that look like me is their issue – not mine. But Lord, it’s all I can do to make sure that I avoid this:

http://www.comedycentral.com/video-clips/t0brk3/chappelle-s-show-when-keeping-it-real-goes-wrong—vernon-franklin

Old Reality

The story always seems to begin the same.

They just wanted to go home.

But the story always seems to end the same.

They are not able to make it home. Their loved ones miss them, and they will never truly understand why their baby is no longer here in the physical form.

I can only imagine the pain of a mother or father losing their child – to something as innocent as just wanting to go home.

All their lives, parents try to protect their babies from the folks we generally classify as evil doers. The Danger Strangers that McGruff the Crime Dog urged you to steer clear from.

Apparently, the overzealous neighborhood watchman, rogue cop, and suspicious store owner weren’t on that list.

Earlier today, I saw a post from a mom that was sharing how her young child was processing the verdict of the Trayvon Martin case. Essentially, the child said they wanted to be White – they did not want to die because they were Black.

That broke my heart.

In a reality that is new for these children, how do we calm or eliminate this fear? A nightlight or a warm embrace will not stave off the monster that lurks freely in the streets – consuming the lives of innocent children that never had the chance to live out their potential.

But these fates are not new. You can replace the cold, hard concrete of a BART platform in Oakland with the thick branch of a polar tree in Tennessee. Blood on the leaves. Blood on the street. The difference is all but non-existent. The crime: Black skin, usually a male looking “suspicious,” and wanting to just simply live. They say that history repeats itself – but in some ways, that history has never ceased.  It is an evil that has been reincarnated and is resilient to any form of exorcism, purification, or cure. It’s racism.

Someday, I hope to have children. But I am honestly at a loss as to how to prepare them for a reality they are destined to face.  It’s a painful and harsh reality in which saying “everything will be ok” just simply will not ease. It’s a promise that may be impossible to keep.  I pray that The Lord has mercy on us all.