Where Do We Go From Here?

For the last three weeks I have felt like I went to sleep and woke up in the Twilight Zone. I almost expected to hear the voice of Rod Serling narrating current events (ironically, a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone, “I Am the Night – Color Me Black”, centers around hate and the unjust execution, by hanging, of a man wrongfully convicted for killing a bigot in self-defense). I was already trying to process the emotions related to my Mother losing her last two surviving siblings within two weeks of each other and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. And if things couldn’t get any worse, the day after hearing the news that my Uncle had passed away, the world witnessed the modern-day public lynching of George Floyd. George Floyd had just become the most recent name added to the far too long list of unarmed Black men and women killed by law enforcement. 

I have experienced every range of emotions known to man. Anger, rage, grief, bewilderment, anxiety, depression, numbness, and the list goes on. And if watching a man literally having the life drained out of him while crying out, “I can’t breathe!” (and he wasn’t the first) then calling out for his dead mother with the last little bit of breath left in his body as onlookers witnessed three police officers who were sworn to protect and serve continue to hold him down, with the fourth just standing there watching until he died, wasn’t enough, those who took to the streets to exercise their Constitutional right to peacefully protest George Floyd’s murder and police brutality were met with unconscionable acts of violence themselves at the hands of law enforcement. All for the world to see.

Our country was on the verge of heading down a very chaotic and slippery slope.

After the protests turned violent, we then found out that much of the rioting and looting began at the hands of outsiders, further adding insult to injury. With many Americans thinking that was the worst that could happen, once again we were in for a rude awakening. Peaceful protestors were not only gassed for a Presidential photo op, that same President simultaneously announced to the citizens of this country that he would have absolutely no problem using active-duty military force against them in an effort to quell protests. Our country was on the verge of heading down a very chaotic and slippery slope. And we continued to see peaceful civilians being violently assaulted by law enforcement officers all over the country. There were women being violently thrown to the ground, protestors being beaten, gassed, and sprayed in the face with pepper spray, sitting protestors being kicked and shot with pepper bullets (some even shot in the face), and perhaps one of the most disturbing yet, was watching a 75 year old man being forcefully shoved to the ground, knocked unconscious, and left bleeding from the head as officers just continued on their way without so much as even checking to see if he was okay. While all of these things would naturally take a toll on anyone witnessing these horrors, for African Americans it’s just compounded on top of generations of experiencing and witnessing this type of violence.

A sickness known as hate. Not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ—but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone—look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether.

Closing narration “I Am the Night – Color Me Black”, The Twilight Zone, 1964

My parents grew up in the rural South during Jim Crow. Like many African American children, I grew up hearing the stories of discrimination and violent atrocities committed against Black people at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan and other White Supremacists. I remember asking them what it was like having to live like that and how they dealt with it all. During that time it was just the way things were in the South and it was all they knew. They had to survive it the best way they could. For generations Black parents have had to have “the talk” with their children in an attempt to keep them alive and safe. Back in my parents’ day, and prior to, “the talk” didn’t just pertain to law enforcement, but to ALL White people. Generations later Black parents still have to have “the talk” with their children about what to do and how to behave when they come in contact with law enforcement in hopes that they will return home alive.

Most people today are aware of the horrific death of the young Emmitt Till at the hands of a White lynch mob in Mississippi for allegedly just looking and whistling at a White woman, only to find out decades later that it was all a lie. Just hours before the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, we witnessed “Central Park Karen”, a White woman, calling the police on a Black man bird watching in Central Park in New York alleging that he was threatening her and her dog. Which was also a lie. I shudder to think what would have happened had he been there when the police arrived, and had he not had video to support his side of the story. Although we know that in a lot of cases having video still doesn’t matter.

Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be reliving a modern-day version of the horrors that were known all too well by my parents and many other African Americans.

Perhaps one of the things that hit me the hardest after hearing about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery was when days later I recalled how my Dad had told me about when he was growing up in South Georgia, the Klan would abduct Black men and boys from their homes and use them as human target practice. They would set them loose in the woods, and while they were running for their lives, just like Ahmaud, they were shot and killed. Ahmaud was killed in Brunswick, GA. My Dad grew up just outside of Brunswick. The only difference between then and now is that Ahmaud was out jogging, running on his own accord, and instead of running for his life in the woods, he was running for his life on a residential street.

Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be reliving a modern-day version of the horrors that were known all too well by my parents and many other African Americans living in this country during a time where there was literally no hope for justice in the crimes committed against African Americans by White Americans. Although many strides have been made and African Americans have a better chance than the generations before in pursuing justice, all too often justice still goes unserved; especially and particularly when the crimes committed against them are committed by law enforcement. In the wake of George Floyd’s brutal death, there has been an unprecedented response to the ongoing terror and violence against People of Color in this country, Black lives in particular. The tide appears to be turning, but the question still remains, “Where do we go from here?”

Let’s get lifted!

V.

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