It is easy to say that the American system is broken, but can something be broken if it is working exactly the way it is designed? I can provide countless facts and moments in history where people of color, and specifically Black people, were mistreated in this American system. For those that say you want to give me examples of where Black people have thrived or succeeded, you make my point about the American system. My America is from the perspective of a 32-year-old Black man who grew with both parents in the house, a middle-class upbringing, a college education, and now, a good job with benefits. In the words of James Baldwin, to be Black and conscious is to live in a constant state of rage. My fortunate circumstance does not mean I do not hurt, and I am not angry with Black existence in America. It isn’t about my success as an individual Black man, but instead, I still feel the pain of the countless Black Americans who live in this country that know the color of our skin is a target, and that we don’t matter.
This is my America, my America of Black pain, Black protest, and Black progress.
Black Pain: In this America, my skin color is viewed as the enemy, which means they never view me a friend. When I see a Black man get shot in his back seven times in front of kids in America, where we are still reeling from watching a Black man be murdered by having a knee to his neck for over eight minutes, and where officers bust into the home and fire shots murdering a Black woman while she sleeps in her bed, this Black pain is my America. I am raising a Black girl in a world where I fear her falling in love with a Black man because he could be taken from her just because of the color of his skin. This Black pain I sometimes feel at work because I look at my children and think what if they come across the same officers, who within three seconds of pulling up, gunned down twelve-year Tamir Rice. Black pain I feel in my America is where two Black children get gunned down, and after a couple of days, it is out of the news cycle. But a white girl goes missing, and it is national news for months. This Black pain runs deep, and it cuts deep, and even when I look alright outside, I am not alright inside. Despite my degrees and a good job, my America still doesn’t value me.
Black Protest: I remember the first time a protest hit me differently. It was Ferguson where I felt the rage of those protesting in the streets. I remember I was only four years removed from college, where I spent four years going through this personal journey that I did not share with others about what I saw in the world. My America began taking shape during my time at Central State University. I learned about the Black protest of the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movements. It was that knowledge when I heard about the murder of Michael Brown and how they left his body in the street. As I watched the protest unfold, I understood that this is not a one-off. This is fifty years of built-up frustration from a community that is sick and tired of being sick and tired. Now, we fast forward to the summer of 2020, and I remember like yesterday sitting on my couch in May, scrolling through social media when I kept seeing a video being shared of a Black man running, and then the video is cut off. As the video begins to catch momentum and live videos popped up, I quickly realized the attack on Black people that I had seen since I first learned about Trayvon Martin is now in my city. The police in Indianapolis murdered Dreasjon Reed by putting multiple bullets in his back and his head. Protest now erupted in my city just like I was seeing around the world. The summer of 2020 will be remembered as a country in protest for Black lives to matter.
Black Progress: Even through the pain and the protest, even in this mostly dark America of mine, there is hope, there is the light, and there is progress. Progress was watching Colin Kaepernick kneel during the National Anthem and become the first professional athlete since Muhammad Ali take a stand against the system. Black Progress is where Martin Luther King had a dream in the 1960s, and Barack Obama gave us hope in 2008. Black progress is Shirley Chisolm breaking down barriers in the United States Congress, so Kamala Harris could be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Black Progress is the passion and pride of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that is pouring over into the passion and pride of the Black Lives Matter Movement happening now. Black progress is that finally some white people are just as outraged and angry about the treatment of Black people in this country as Black people. Black Progress is still just that, progress.
I hope this progress turns into meaningful change, so my daughter can grow up and see my America differently than I see it.