These past few weeks I have not slept well. It seems as if each night I lie awake for more than two hours while my mind races about every minor and major event, detail and problem I’ve read about and digested in the news just a few hours earlier. I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a hard time sleeping through the night until I allowed myself to sit with the fact that the police-sponsored murders of Black men and women across the country are affecting me in ways I had previously tried to bury or ignore. As I race through my day teaching, writing, speaking to various groups, I have a certain disconnect with my true feelings and fears. It is when my mind can finally “relax” that it begins to race, thinking of all of the families, children, neighborhoods and cities that will never be the same after experiencing the loss of another innocent member of their community.
It seems as if just as I process one police shooting, I see yet another hashtag appear in my social media feed. It begs the question as to whether Black people can ever be free in this country. Black citizens are seen as a threat, despite gender, age or geographic locale. And unfortunately, the country is so divided at this moment, there are so many—too many—white Americans who refuse to see the crux of the problem or empathize with the pain being felt in so many communities across the country.
Can these Americans really think that selling cigarettes or CDs on the street is a crime punishable by death? Can they honestly say that a speeding infraction or taillight equals an execution? How can they justify seeing innocent men with their hands in the air, only to be shot by multiple police officers at random? If they cannot see the humanity in these individuals, I wonder just what they see when they look at any Black bodies?
So what should we do to combat this very real fear, anxiety and anger that so many of us are experiencing at such visceral levels right now? We must take time for ourselves right now. We must find the people and the spaces that fill us with energy, love and respect. It may be a place of worship or it may just be a friend’s sofa. Wherever it is, we must make sure we build in the time in our hectic lives to slow down and deliberately (re)connect with people who fill us with a sense of joy, love and sustenance. We must also remember that is OK to have days where you are angry or sad or numb. We cannot wallow in these emotions, but it is imperative to feel them if needed. I wish I had more words as I try to wrap my mind around this moment we are in as Black citizens. I do not. Until then, take good care and do not forget to vote Nov. 8.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.