Yes, I Need You to Weep for Me
Last night and this morning, I cried a river. I cried because of how helpless I felt in a world where people who look like me continue to be treated unfairly, where people who look like me continue to die and where people who look like me are ignored and marginalized. I cried because I watched a video about a young man being gunned down in the street like an animal while he was jogging on a country road. I begin to think, what this man was thinking when he left his house that morning. I said to myself, he was probably excited about a new fitness routine that he was starting. I said, or maybe he just wanted some sun. I even thought about how close families live in Southern towns and that he was simply going to his aunt’s house to pick up something for his mother. My mind shifted to what he wasn’t thinking when he left the house. I was almost certain he did not think he would not return home. I was also certain that he did not think that he would have to run for his life but would have never been able to do so.
I sat back on the sofa and looked at the door to my left and began to recall one night coming into my garage and unloading groceries out of the car. I didn’t hear my alarm sound until it was too late and my cell phone began ringing. I said, “Shit the alarm.” I answered the phone and she said, “Hi an alarm was activated and we need the code.” I could not even remember the code. She said okay, “If you do call me back. I have to dispatch police.” Well I did and called back. I told them the code and they said “okay thank you.” I sat down in front of my TV and began to eat and watch television. My doorbell ranged. I jumped at the sound and wondered who the heck was at my door. I said to myself, “I always know when someone is coming by. “I went to the door cut on the porch light and saw an officer. He said, “I am here because your alarm went off.” Chuckling he said, “I figured this was your home when I saw you sitting in front of the TV eating dinner.” I wasn’t giggling, my heart was pounding. The first thing I thought about was Atatiana Jefferson. I got more nervous. The officer came into my home and asked for my I.D. and to check the house (he did not do much checking though). It was an awkward moment for me because I couldn’t even think of where my I.D. was. I began to walk towards my bedroom. As I did this, I said, “sir would you mind walking to my bedroom with me to get my ID.” I was too afraid to walk back there alone because I didn’t know if he would have felt threatened as I walked out holding my passport. I was so nervous, I could not think of where my wallet was so I found my passport instead. As we stood in my bedroom, I can remember my hand shaking. I handed him the passport. He looked at it and said, “Thank you ma’am” and proceeded towards the front door. He did not look in the kitchen or garage to see if anyone was holding me against my will. He just left the residence. I remember once I shut the door, taking a deep breathe, went back to the sofa and began to cry. So hard that I could not control it.
This was the first experience of fear in my own home. Fear of the person that is supposed to protect and serve. This police officer was nothing less than professional and nice, but the possibilities of this outcome is what had me afraid. I thought of all the reasons why he may have felt threatened by me when these thoughts should have never come across my mind.
Black Americans and particularly black men are overrepresented in the media as criminals, suspects or more threatening than other cultures. This not only increases fear in other races but also our own race. The media heightens racial tensions between black and white people by commonly portraying whites as victims. Now some may ask why does this increase fear in the black communities and how does this impact the mental health of black communities? Well it does.
Black Americans do not always realize the impacts of daily stressors on their bodies and their minds. Most times we are simply in survival mode. Caring for others and not for ourselves. It’s more common to see health issues began to rise before we take care of ourselves if we can afford to do so.
This read today comes with a point. The impact of what I saw last on social media as black woman literally railroaded my day. I felt heavy. I didn’t feel heavy because it happened to me but because it happened to someone who looked like me and I could do nothing about it. So if I am feeling this way, imagine how many others of all races maybe feeling.
During a study by Boston University and University of Pennsylvania, their findings supported the need for police killings to be seen as a public health issue. They noted that failure to do so produces mental health issues and health problems: “The observed adverse mental health spillover effects of police killings of unarmed black Americans could result from heightened perceptions of threat and vulnerability, lack of fairness, lower social status, lower beliefs about one’s own worth, activation of prior traumas, and identification with the deceased.”
As I sit back and read about this study and so many others, the only conclusion that I could come to is the fact that I am now another number that increases the statistical data on the impacts to the mental health of those who witness, see or exposed to personally or in the media of black Americas being killed, beaten, discriminated against and treated differently in our nation. My heart hurts, I feel heavy and yes I am mentally exhausted.