By Robert M. Sellers
Growing up the child of a minister and two civil liberties activists, among my preferred gospel songs is “I don’t feels no chances tired.” That song, thus lots of other tunes from my African American culture, evokes an everlasting optimism about tomorrow that is built on “the faith that our dark past has taught us” as well as “the hope that the present has brought us.”
I have constantly stated that Black folks are the most optimistic subscribers of the American dream, despite our long history of dehumanization and degradation in this nation. This other-worldly optimism is maybe most notoriously exhibited in Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech (that America ironically likes to co-opt by trotting it out every year on his birthday as a self-congratulatory indication of just how much progress we have actually made as a society since his death).
Today, I awakened very worn out. Not your typical tired. I got up with a type of tired that can just be discovered on the other side of loss, anger, disappointment, sadness, and despair. This early morning, I got up in a state in which African Americans comprise roughly 13% of the population, however consist of 31% of the individuals with COVID-19 and 40% of individuals dying from COVID-19. I awakened in a nation where a White woman can not only accuse an African American man of threatening her since he is just asking her to comply with the law in a public space, however she can actually weaponize the cops for her own objectives merely by repeatedly describing him as being African American.
The scary reality of the matter is not that she believed (or even hoped) that she would get a various reaction by stimulating race when making her 911 call. The truly scary thing is that she was right. By evoking race and Blackness specifically, she positioned a target on his back, putting a male’s life in genuine danger. The current murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery make this point generously clear: being a Black male interacting with police can be hazardous to one’s health. Lest we get it twisted, being a Black lady in these circumstances is no picnic either. I got up in a country where a Black woman is being repeatedly typed the head by a member of my regional constable department.
This early morning, I got up bone-weary tired.
Some individuals argue that this country, while being developed considerably by us, was never ever indicated for us. (They are not incorrect.) As such, a few of these very same people believe that other-worldly optimism suggests weak point and is eventually what has sealed our fate as a people. They question the knowledge in holding out such faith and expect modification in a system (in a society) that has time and time again showed that Black self-respect, Black bodies, and Black lives matter a little less. (It is hard to argue with the logic of the concern.)
These times actually do raise for me the concern of how long must we wait, strategy, work, march, agitate, forgive, and vote before we have a society in which all lives matter similarly, despite race or color? In my bone-weary exhausted state this early morning, prior to I even rose, I asked myself why should I continue to combat to try to alter a system that has actually proven time and time once again that it just does not regard me and individuals who appear like me as completely human.
As I woke up today, I could not rise. I laid there for a while attempting to come to grips with my feelings of fatigue and despair. Often, when I am struggling to understand important things in my life, I turn to my parents’ example for guidance. I attempted to access the collective wisdom of those who came prior to me, those who sacrificed so that I could have more. I questioned what they would say about the state of race in today’s society and what my function need to be. From birth, my moms and dads instilled in me and my siblings through their words– and more significantly their actions– that the battle for racial justice is a long, intergenerational one. It is also one that we are destined to win because best is on our side.
No matter the nature of the problems they dealt with (and there were numerous and some ruthless ones at that), they were constantly able to make it through them through tears and laughter, forever keeping their eyes on the prize. In many methods, they represented that other-worldly Black optimism. Don’t get me wrong, they never ever concealed their own feelings of aggravation, anger, and exhaustion from us. That is how I acknowledged my own sensations this morning. However, my parents never veered from their belief that the brightest day just shone on the other side of the darkest night.
As I laid in that bed thinking of what lessons I could obtain from their lives and what they had stated to me and my siblings and sibling, I was expecting some type of immediate remedy for my sensations of fatigue. I was hoping that their tradition and story would clean away my doubts about our society and where we are going. I was hoping that my showing on my parents’ lives would magically re-charge my batteries and in some way relieve my discomfort. Sadly, my reflections did none of that.
What my recollections of my moms and dads’ example did do was provide me with a viewpoint, a lens through which I can view and comprehend all that is happening now. This lens reminds me that this struggle is not brand-new, nor is it most likely to be won in my life time. Sadly, it is likely that more Black individuals will pass away before we end up being the nation that from another location looks like the one explained in our constitution. This lens likewise advises me that this country is MY country. My ancestors compromised their lives in building this nation.
Their blood, sweat, and tears fertilize the abundant soil upon which much of this country’s wealth and standing worldwide is constructed. I have no choice however to combat for it– to battle to make it live up to its creed. I owe it to those who came prior to me, those who fought and passed away to make this country simply a little bit much better for those who followed them. They fought for me. To refrain from doing so would be akin to walking away from my bequest. It is a bequest that does not belong just to me; it also belongs to future generations of Black folks.
What showing on my moms and dads’ example provided me was renewal– not in the type of relief, however instead in the kind of willpower. My reflections on their example gave me brand-new insights into that other-worldly optimism that is fundamental to the strength and resilience of Black individuals.
That optimism does not reside in a belief that America will simply change, it really resides in the knowledge that each generation of African Americans has actually altered America for the much better and a fantastic faith that the next generation will take the next actions in changing America a lot more (even if it feels method too sluggish). This point of view has actually restored my resolve to do all that I can to make whatever change I can. For me, to do otherwise would be turning my back on the investment that my forefathers made in this country and disinheriting my descendants.
I am still tired of this shit though.