I’ve tasked myself with expressing my profound sadness. Maybe for catharsis. Maybe so I can say something and not feel so helpless about it. I don’t know.
There’s a sort of disconnect that happens when highly-publicized attacks occur that target someone(s) of a very specific demographic. It happened with the Pulse Nightclub shootings a few weeks ago, and it’s happened again with the killings of Alton Sterling, immediately followed up by Philando Castile. All of the good people, and even some of the sort of shitty people are remorseful, they’re saddened.
But there’s a certain language of mourning for us who fit into the groups that were targeted. It’s embedded deeper, it’s sown more sorrowfully. There is no sense of removed sadness for me like there is in other instances, when my mourning stems from empathy and my general investment in humankind.
Because when you’ve killed one of mine, it feels like you’re trying to kill me.
People will throw out terms and phrases about how we’re ultimately all one, and one person’s suffering is another’s because we’re all humans living in this world simultaneously and together - there’s validity in that, and I speak those words all the time. But some may use this reasoning to deride the so-called “segregation of my mourning.”
Yet in a society that has forcibly categorized us since the dawn of time and treated certain groups drastically differently because of it, there is no getting around it - at least not right now. There’s a very unique sadness, apprehension, fear that springs from being black and watching other black people slain mercilessly with no real justification. It’s the same with being queer and watching those in the LGBTQ community killed.
I live my life openly as these identities. I embrace these identities. There’s no escaping these identities.
And when these attacks happen against others who shoulder the weight of these identities, it hurts. It hurts selfishly. But it hurts beyond just my person, because they’re killing my brothers and sisters, and it hurts viciously.
My brothers and sisters because we’re all humans in this world, yes, but even deeper than this, my brothers and sisters because together we’ve all had to bear the burdens of white supremacy and heteronormativity. We’ve been disenfranchised together and only had each other to truly understand the way we must live and operate in this oppressive world with its dehumanizing systems. We are immediately connected by our shared identities that breed shared experiences and unfortunately, shared oppressions.
They’re family immediately in a way that’s admittedly not quite there with those outside of us. Power had made the world be as such, and we have to operate under that.
It's like when I'm out in public in a predominately white space, and my eyes cross paths with the one other black person there. Even though we've never met before, we immediately bond without saying a word, because something separates us and thus connects us. We have a whole history before us that is silently understood and brings us together in that moment.
So we nod to each other, greet each other, like we've known each other before, though we actually haven't and maybe won't ever speak again. Because we're both black in a white space, and we gravitate to that in implicit solidarity. We might not know each other, but we know where we've come from. And we know we're treated as outsiders in this world.
This distinct mourning is like that, but magnified.
But no, I don’t have to justify my heightened sense of pain and sadness to anyone.
There’s a privilege of detachment, even when they’ve genuinely engaged themselves as allies, that the straights have, that the whites have. I can’t imagine that these things affect them as viscerally, as presumptive as that is. Not that they are incapable of feeling sad, but it seems to be a different kind of sadness. The sort of sadness that I feel when someone who’s close to one of my friends, but not close to me dies. A removed sadness - certainly sincere, but nowhere near the sort of pain my friend feels.
Twice in a month now, I’ve felt the kind of profound sadness, spiraling through days and days that slows every inch of me down into a heavy lethargy. I feel like I’m trying to move through a thick haze. Like there’s a large stone resting on my chest, its pressure overwhelming as I try to breathe.
I’ve transcended sadness on the behalf of another. This sadness has become my own.
Around two years ago when these police killings of black men started to receive unprecedented media attention, I was full of words. With each new tragedy, I had a passionate Facebook post immediately at my fingers, not just expressing my pain, fury and disappointment, but as a preaching call to the masses to pay attention and understand.
Almost two years after the killing of Michael Brown and perhaps the first time I took to Facebook to express my emotions at these police killings of black people, I have nothing left to say. I can’t find my words. And what can I say that I haven’t already said, time and time again, like a song that’s been playing on repeat for decades?
I’ll share the words of those who still can find them as my own elude me, vaguely aware that they’re still saying the same things, too. And some people are listening, but nothing seems to change.
I subscribe to hope heavily. I believe things can change, and I believe things are changing, even when it isn’t visibly noticeable, even if it’s just in the undercurrent.
But right now, more than anything, I’m just really sad. I’m so affected that it awes me how I’m expected to keep going along with my days, like nothing has happened. I’m amazed at the evidence of people who can do such with ease. Those who can say “that’s a shame” then continue on as usual, without the poignant heaviness sticking to them miserably, living with a permanent cloud shrouding their entirety.
I had just shaken off the depression of the Pulse shootings. And now this?
So for right now, there’s not much more I can say than this. I’ve said so much, so many times, and I still stand by all those words. But for right now, I just need to grieve.
And I do appreciate so much the empathy, support and allyship of my vocal non-black (and in regards to the Pulse shootings, my straight) friends. This was not meant to diminish anyone’s own personal sadness - I certainly recognize it as genuine.
But man, this feels so personally affecting right now, in ways that I don’t think everyone can quite understand. So to my black brothers and sisters - I feel ya. I'm right there with y'all, and I feel y'all. Know that if no one else around you seems to understand, that I certainly do.