Mourning those we’ve lost

Christina Greer, Ph.D. | 9/10/2020, midnight
It seems like 2020 just won’t stop. So many of us are still processing the death of Kobe Bryant at ...
Dr. Christina Greer

It seems like 2020 just won’t stop. So many of us are still processing the death of Kobe Bryant at the beginning of the year and just last week, we lost Chadwick Boseman. Both men had barely entered their 40s and had immense talent which inspired and motivated millions of people across the globe. These losses are compounded by what feels like a never-ending assault on the emotional well-being of Black people in this country as we see yet another hashtag of yet another innocent Black person killed by the police.

During this global pandemic, so many people are sheltering in place, not seeing colleagues and friends, barely seeing loved ones and relatives, and living an overall lifestyle of imposed isolation. Some are definitely more isolated and alone than others, which is compounded by the constant barrage of death on the television and in the newspapers each day. As I write this column, America alone has lost over 180,000 people to COVID-19. So many families are grieving. So many families are trying to figure out a way forward.

The loss of life due to COVID-19 coexists with state sanctioned killings by police. This grief that so many people are feeling is compounded by the uncertainty at the highest levels of our government. The instability of American democracy and the white nationalist leadership of the nation has made far too many Black families feel unsafe in their own land and have left many at a loss for words when trying to explain the tone and actions of the president to their children. The loss that some feel is literally the loss of a nation. Imperfect as America has been, this new direction of the president and his party have left many feeling adrift in a lawless land that does not value Black life in any capacity other than empty stereotypes and tropes.

Although this feeling of loss can be overwhelming, debilitating, and even paralyzing, it is imperative that we push on. As Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell…keep going.” We must not stand still in the face of grief and uncertainty. We must continue to honor our lost loved ones and our heroes. We must always trust that the ancestors will safely shepherd us through the storm. And we must find that beacon of hope and faith within us to keep going, even with onslaughts and uncertainty.

Reflecting on the short lives of Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman, I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose. We do not know how much time we have to make an impact on someone’s life and to change the course of history. We must dig deep and look outside of our own circumstance to be a light for others. We can and we must.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.