I’ve been wondering why I have been feeling so heavy. Why I cannot simply enjoy the privilege of now being able to purchase my latte, in line right next to a white person, from a corporate conglomerate profiting from modern day slave labor largely at the hand of men and women who look like me in prisons, and skip off to work and be happy and satisfied with the fact that none of the people in management look like me, and no one being hired looks like me, but I’m supposed to be satisfied with the payment for my compliance every two weeks.
I’ve found my way from working in corporate spheres where I experienced the monument of power and influence that multi-national corporations wield in their ability to pay hefty salaries to all of their employees, spare no expense at throwing over-the-top events thanking their employees for catapulting their owners into deeper seas of wealth. And it was all ok, because what they spend on these meager employees is a drop in the bucket to the profits they make on their backs. They’re ok with diversity at the entry level, sure! Maybe a few faces of Color are allowed to sit in senior roles (a step up) from staff level, and even fewer at the manager level. And then one day I had to ask myself – after a 40 hour workweek- what am I accomplishing? How does making white men richer improve the world I live in?
So I moved into education, from which my parents had also dedicated their lives. Considered teaching, but craved broader systemic impact so I began in administration. Entering the system knowing full well the whisperings people had told me about the “machine” that ran the system which was constructed to ensure the demise of children of color. I was determined to be the change from within. Sneak up on them unsuspectingly. And I did what I could do within my sphere of control, but of course my hands were never anywhere near the controls of the “machine”. The heart of that beast was centuries old, with roots that run deep in our city’s history. There were good running starts with some initiatives, and when they reached any level of momentum there was swift action to knock them down and crush hope. The end game remained the same, to keep communities of color hopeless.
And so I moved on, into the non-profit world where there was some separation from the corruption of well-paid politicians with predetermined agendas, and I hoped that here is where real progress could be made. Schools, managed by people who looked like me, and who were truly making progress, producing students who were prepared for college and careers, growing teachers who truly loved and respected kids….I hoped. But found disappointment again. Once more behind the curtain, white hands at the controls with disconnected views of “those kids” who told stories of bleeding hearts for saving our kids.
So I switched organizations and careers paths from operations to programs. Having observed that “programs” is where the work and magic really happens. That is where the rubber meets the road. Here is where I will find “my tribe” of people moving towards a common goal, academics who are smart enough and who have read enough studies to know the necessity of diversity, who understand and have been driven to this work after grieving over their forefathers role in driving this country to the violent and hateful racial dichotomy that we live with in today. “These” people are here because they “get it”…they have to! They could spend their money and time a million different places, but they’ve chosen to serve black and brown communities across this country- they have to get it!
But alas, here I sit…at the precipice of turning 39, still wondering how.
How is it, that as a society we can wake up and face each other everyday, not speaking a word to each other about the vile atrocities that are happening right beneath our noses?
A black child was just shot last night, in the city we live in. And you want me to care about the frustration of your commute in this morning?
How am I not supposed to be enraged, depressed, traumatized, hopeless, helpless, fearful and paranoid all at once? And how do you question or label me for being anything less than chipper and unintimidating?
How white advocates can be more motivated to action to save an abandoned or battered dog, than when they hear news of a black boy being killed senselessly?
How all of us still go to work like brainless cattle when citizens are being rounded up and deported? (And again, why there wasn’t this much of an outcry when young black men are being slaughtered in high definition video recordings with NO punishment while the public tax dollars pay these murdering police officer’s salaries and pensions, the judges the attorneys and everyone in the system who failed to deliver justice.)
How “Love & Hip Hop” caricatures became the idols and icons of our black girls and black boys?
How I explain to my daughter why black men call each other ‘nigga’ but it’s not ok if a white person does the same?
How we are not shutting down the entire country with the knowledge that slavery is still alive and well in 2017?! How many ways do we need to be told of the injustices and oppression that we are inherently exposed to on a daily basis to FEEL something enough to change it?
But what I have been feeling for a long time now is finally settling and cementing as truth. Our collective society is intentionally asleep. The overwhelming majority of the United States would much rather hide behind the screens of their cell phones than engage in any real human interaction. Weekly lightweight comedic sitcoms, fake “reality” shows, and the absurd truth that nowadays ignorance is king and idiots that display their unique talents can be overnight celebrities and live better than your uncle, or aunt, or grandfather who has dedicated their life to working hard everyday, without taking sick days or shortcuts, just to make a decent life for their family. But this is what reality is to the majority of the U.S. Mix this with a daily doses of alcohol, weed, prescription pain killers or anti-depressants, and wa-la = an unconscious America.
I get weary of living among the walking dead. And while I know progressive and impactful work is being done in pockets of our society, there are times when I cannot help but feel like we are punching our fists against a stone wall.
Nevertheless, Malcom who was much younger than I facing much greater challenges than I – never quit. Martin, faced the same and never quit. Harriet faced far, far greater risk and though she couldn’t undo the entire system or free everyone- she never quit. Angela still hasn’t quit. Huey never quit. Marcus never quit. Our journey is a process, and we each play a role in moving it forward.