Like many people reading this column, I have been overwhelmed by so many of the incidents involving Black Americans in the U.S. The death of Sandra Bland and so many other women and men of color in police custody has really made my spirit feel under attack. For the past year, it seems like every week there is a new story about a Black American dying because of some relatively minor altercation with the police. As a reminder, the police are mandated to serve and protect all citizens, not just those they see as “compliant.”
Over 150 people have died at the hands of the police thus far in 2015. We still have five months to go, and I truly wonder if we are experiencing a new normal. Adding to these stories are the visuals of Confederate flags flying to greet the president of the United States in Oklahoma and comments in mainstream media outlets (not just anonymous blogs) blaming people of color for getting shot by the police. When looking at the larger racial climate in the U.S. right now, I am just exhausted. However, a recent visit from my father reminded me that in the face of this adversity, I should save my energy for the real fights that matter and not sweat the smaller things in life.
During his recent visit, we were attempting to figure out our breakfast plan. He turned to me and said, “At this point in my life, I refuse to sweat the minor things in life.” This struck me on several levels. First, because I recognized the mortality of my parents, but also because I listened more closely to the words of wisdom they have given and continue to give me each time we speak. So instead of grocery shopping for eggs, bacon, grits, etc., I merely heated up leftovers from dinner and we had a fantastic and drama-free breakfast with no cooking involved. I am sure my grandmother is rolling in her grave, but my dad and I refused to focus on something so minor that would actually detract from the limited family time we have together. As my late maternal grandmother always said, “We have bigger fish to fry!” That is how I feel right now.
I realized that in an effort to control so many things, I have been stressing about minor issues in my life. Does it really matter if my apartment is not perfectly spotless? Does it really matter if the small things in my life are not perfect? Does it matter if I serve dinner food for breakfast? After speaking to my dad, I realized that I am trying to exert control in my own life at a time when it appears the outside world is completely out of control. I know this may sound simplistic, but for the remainder of 2015, I am actively trying to stay in the present and save my energy for the larger, more important fights in life.
So for the remainder of the year, I am asking my readers to stay in the present and to save their energy for the real issues that matter. There are so many individuals and organizations who spend each day of their lives fighting for social justice, racial equality and larger freedoms for political prisoners, those who are mass incarcerated and those who are poor. I need to replicate those efforts. The fights I need to wage are on behalf of my community, and I will save my energy for what really matters in life. So heat up some leftovers for breakfast, ignore the dust bunnies and don’t let the small stuff distract you from the larger battles ahead. We have many, but as a community, we always have and we definitely will overcome.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.”