I can’t breathe.
On 11th May I wrote a poem about my frustration over the late response to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, about the constant fear I live with that something similar could happen to my brother. Or my brothers-in-law. Or my nephews. Or my great-nephews. Or one of my childhood friends, now grown black men with sons of their own.
And this morning, I read of protests in Minnesota following yet another death of another black person at the hands of police who are supposed to “protect and serve.”
It made my chest and my head ache. The rage I am suppressing makes it hard for me to breathe.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child from my hometown.
I could add more names, but I’m not going to. Because those 18 names should not be in a list like the one I’ve typed – such a list should not exist in 21st century America; indeed, in the 21st century world.
As an American black woman who spent the first 43 years of her life in the US, I know not all police are bad. Not all white people are bad. But what I see from abroad, living in Scotland where people are not consumed by race – where the main concern is Celtic or Rangers, Better Together or Independence – concerns me deeply. And I’ll admit, at times I feel guilty that I live in a country where I am safe. Where health care is a guaranteed right. Where no one has ever suggested that I “go back to Africa”. Where I can wander around a shop without security trailing me because they think “all black people steal”. Where the police actually help you, and on this last one, I am speaking from experience.
This open season on black people grieves me greatly. It goes on and on, the list gets longer, the protests get bigger and the people with the power to do something to stop it appear to be indifferent. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that, considering the person at the top in the US cares for no one save himself and mammon – what’s a few black lives in comparison to that?
Last night I was on a video call with my best friend of 58 years. In these days of the pandemic, I speak to my family and friends in the States via video calls far more than I did prior to the virus’ intrusion into all our lives. So I’m talking to my friend, and amongst our talk of Covid-19, I tell her of my fear that something will happen to her or my siblings or any of my friends.
“We’re all getting older,” I tell her. “Maybe it’s time to return to the States, so I can spend the remaining years of my life with my siblings…with the people who were first there for me.”
She assures me that she would love to have me back. “You could even stay with me for as long as you want to while you get established again. But, sweetie…you love Scotland! You’ve built a good life for yourself there – you’re safe there, you have health care!”
We finished the conversation shortly afterwards the way we always do: with many cyber-hugs and much blowing of kisses at the monitor. And as I poured another glass of wine before settling down to another night of insomnia and Netflix, the little voice in my head said, “sure you miss your sisters and your brother and your friends, but are you sure you want to return to the US? Why expend your energy and effort and talent in a country that doesn’t want you, where your life has so little value?”
I had no answer to that.
Make America Great Again? What a crock of SHIT.
Make America Generous Again.
Make America Giving Again.
Make America Gentle Again.