Life

#BlackLivesMatter

I haven’t wrote a blog post in awhile. Life’s gotten busy. Priorities have shifted. Things change. But today, I decided to pick up writing again. I started writing this blog on a Saturday afternoon.

My husband’s spending time with his best friend and I’m relieved. I know the importance of him spending time with other black men in general, but I know how especially important it is in times like these. I’m relieved because there are things about Andrel’s reality that I will never completely understand, no matter how hard I try. To be around other black men, especially in a time like this, is essential to Andrel’s well-being because he’s in a space where he can not only fully be himself, but have conversations with people who can fully understand.

I hope by now someone in your sphere has brought to your attention the death of George Floyd. If not…that’s for another post. I never watch or share the videos because it’s literally the same video over and over again with just a different black man. And I’m exhausted. Beyond exhausted.

According to the Washington Posts’ database tracking police shootings, 1,262 black people have been shot and killed by police since January 1, 2015. Black Americans account for less than 13% of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.

That scares me.

In 2014, Andrel came to visit me while I was in graduate school in a small town in Michigan and I was on edge whenever we drove at night and Andrel was in the driver’s seat. For the 12 months I lived in that small town, I had seen more confederate flags than I ever saw in my entire life; I listened to more stories about discrimination and prejudice than I ever heard in my entire life. For the 12 months I lived in that small town, the experiences of Black Americans were no longer on a television or in a news article: they were right in front of me, in the people I met and interacted with. So, when Andrel planned a surprise visit one weekend, I was on edge.

In 2016, Andrel went on a trip to the US and I’ve never prayed such a specific prayer for safety ever in my life. He was flying to Miami to meet up with his family, but he would get there a day ahead of them. And I wrote this specific Facebook post on July 11, 2016:

Yesterday, I dropped off my boyfriend at the airport for his flight to Miami. It was with a heaviness in my heart that I dropped him off at the airport. And it wasn’t because I would miss him dearly.

In the way to the airport and back, I had this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t quite understand it. What it was. Why I was feeling it. Only to realize that the gnawing feeling was fear.

Fear that he was flying to America. Fear that it was less than a week after the murders, the protests, and the retaliations. Fear that someone might misconstrue what he was saying and use it to justify harming him. Fear that someone might misinterpret his actions and use it to justify hurting him. Fear that someone just won’t like how he looks and use it to justify taking his life.

In 2018, we took a detour on our drive to New York through a small rural town in the middle of the night and we didn’t stop driving until we found a city, even when we saw a car pulled over on the side of the road possibly needing assistance with a flat tire. We felt guilty for not helping the person out, but it was literally a choice of helping someone or potentially putting the lives of two black men in danger. These are the kinds of choices we have to debate.

This is why I can’t ignore what’s going on in the U.S. I don’t have that privilege; we don’t have that privilege. Because Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd…the endless names of black men who have been killed by police could easily include Andrel.

There’s so much to unpack, so much to explore, and I can’t do all of that in one post. But I will say this:

If you’re in an interracial relationship with a black man, it’s your responsibility to acknowledge and understand his reality. If you can’t talk about race and racism and prejudice.. It’s negligence. It’s irresponsible. It’s damaging. To your relationship as a whole. To him as a person. To ignore what’s happening to black people across North America, especially in the US, is to ignore your partner’s reality.

If you consider yourself to be friends with a black person, it’s your duty to acknowledge and understand their reality. If you can’t stand up to defend the life of your friend, then you’re not a friend. If you can’t call racism and prejudice by its name without a ‘but’, then you’re not a friend. Again, it’s negligence. It’s irresponsible. It’s damaging. And it speaks volumes about you as a person.

I’m tired of people romanticizing interracial relationships or consuming black culture in general, but remaining silent on these issues. If you’ve got a black partner or black friends, this issue is your issue.

I get it. I understand how incredibly complex this space is. I understand how incredibly fragile this situation is. And as a non-black person, you’re probably trying to figure out how to make a meaningful contribution right now. I don’t have all of the answers; I don’t even know what the perfect response may be.

What I do know is this: just show up. Check on your black friends. They’re hurting right now. They’re literally being told that their lives are of no value, that they don’t deserve the same level of respect for their bodies. No one’s expecting you to have all of the answers or to know exactly what to say. But they are expecting you to show up. To use your platform to acknowledge that there are injustices happening in the black community. To learn and understand as much as you can about their experience. To commit to doing everything in your power to be a better ally.

Black people have been fighting this fight for decades, for centuries, and sometimes fight it alone. For every non-black person speaking up or educating themselves or taking actions, there is a black person who can take a moment to catch their breath.

There are no perfect words. There never are. But the public verbalization of “I’m here for you. I support you. I will fight for you” is the best place to start. And then together, we can start the real work.

Let’s continue to amplify black voices and fight for black bodies because #blacklivesmatter.

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