Updated: Feb 22, 2021
My brother is one of my absolute favorite people. Gregarious, honest, forgiving and kind- the oldest and somehow youngest of us all. On our family zoom call, his storytelling organically landed amidst my preteen years when I’d moved back from the suburbs to the hood (a much longer post to come). He recalled that I came in the house panting, hyperventilating and crying. They could barely make out what I was so upset about as he and those I’d later refer to as my ‘other brothers’ all listened and watched intently to figure out why I was upset.
“He... he was just...”
They tensed up awaiting the worst news about who and what had hurt me so… the room fell silent. Eventually I managed to share that I had witnessed someone being jumped.
“And they just wouldn’t stop!”
Exasperated in my storytelling I awaited a reaction equal in intensity to my own. But what I noticed only left me further distraught. No one was impressed. Not a single person even flinched. Actually, there was an air relief all around the room.
“Yea, that happens.” my brother assured me, his friends having already returned to the rhythm of their previous conversation.
Or at least that’s how he told the story. My parents and siblings vocalized their assumed acceptance of this retelling, and I have no reason to refute his claims. What rings most true was my reaction to the sight of violence. It’s the same reaction I had with the Fruitvale station killing of Oscar Grant. And again with the Eric Garner murder. It’s my response to the daily dismissals, invalidations and aggressions and erasures that drive our blood pressure up and our life expectancies down.
While admittedly concerned, the way this impacts me so viscerally is also what brings me the most pride. I could not stomach the violence. All these years later, I still cannot stomach this violence. I feel it all because it is my human right to expect more and crave better.
Far be it for me to sneer at the coping mechanisms that regular exposure to subhuman treatment necessitates for the sake of one’s sheer survival. I am counted as one among many who are simply trying to get by. What I encourage, however, is the radical act of hope. If you have an iota of faith that things can improve, that they must get better - don’t you want to be whole enough to enjoy it when it comes?
Claw, grasp, kick, fight and scream to maintain the humanity for which we fight so earnestly. For if we do not, the words of our foremother Leanita McClain will become our own: I have made it, but where?