The Burden & Blessing of Being Black
"Something is wrong.... Something is wrong.... Something is really really wrong...." This is all I could say yesterday as I sat on the patio with tears running down my face reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about the slaughtering of Stephon Clark.
In the event this story somehow got by you, Stephon Clark is a 22-year old Black man from Sacramento, California who was gunned down - shot at 20 times - by two white police officers in his grandparent's backyard while holding nothing but a cell phone. Yes, you read that right...a cell phone. A young Black man with no weapon was shot at 20 times...not 2 times...not 5 times...not 10 times, but 20 times. He wasn't in the process of robbing a store while holding hostages. He wasn't drunk driving down a freeway putting people's lives in danger. He wasn't running through the hallways of a high school blowing away his peers with a AR-15 semi-automatic weapon like Nikolas Cruz did in Florida. Stephon Clark was at his grandparent's home minding his business.
If you know anything about me you know that I am no political activist. If you have followed my writings or my work for any period of time, you also know that I am not one for arbitrarily playing the race card. At the same time, to know me is to know that I am the proud mother of two absolutely incredible Black men whom I love with every fiber of my being. To know me is to know that I am the grandmother of two handsome Black boys whom I adore and can hardly wait to see who they become in the world.
As I write this blog, my sons and my grandsons are great. They are moving through life with the excitement of being alive and all the benefits of being well loved. Yet my heart is aching and my spirit is troubled because for the life of me I cannot wrap my mind around how it continues to be acceptable for Black men - unarmed or otherwise - to be killed for no other reason than they are Black. I'm totally disturbed about how it continues to be okay for the cops who kill Black men to go on as if they did nothing wrong. No charges pressed. No suspensions from work. No loss of pay. No consequences...at all.
Now, I am a bonafide inspirer. That is who I am. That's who I've been all my life. That's what God created me to do and be. I am content to stay in my lane as an inspirer. It is my sweet spot. HOWEVER, like so many, I'm frustrated. I'm disgusted. I'm tired of seeing Black lives mean less than others' lives. I'm annoyed that this is STILL our reality. It hurts. It's painful to watch these men's lives taken away with such malice and disregard. It's painful to listen to the horrible cries of their family members. It's painful to see white men with guns kill multiple people and walk away from the crime scene without one gunshot wound. It's painful to hear how different the narratives read when a white man commits a criminal act and a Black man commits a criminal act. All of this is getting old and exhausting.
I'm no racist, but I know racism. I'm no Black man, but I can feel Black men's pain. I've not had a son executed by an irresponsible police officer, but my heart hurts for those who have. As focused and as optimistic as I try to be every single day, I will tell you that THIS...this taking of Black men's lives (and not just by white cops, but my Black men too) makes me sad. For days it has had me feeling some kind of way. Yet as an inspirer I don't have the luxury of staying sad. I can't park my proverbial car in the lot of pessimism and sit with my flashers on for days sulking about how wrong all of this is. So in the spirit of feeling better, I tuned my ear to someone who has felt on a much deeper level what I was feeling. I went on YouTube and I listed to Dr. King for two hours last night. I so love Dr. King. Hearing his voice lifted me. Hearing his conviction breathed new energy into me. Being reminded of what he went through and how he held on to his mind in the midst of it all, gave me to know that my sadness was not out of place and my concern is as it should be.
Moreover, listening to Dr. King served as a source of encouragement. I was encouraged because although Dr. King is most notably known as a civil rights leader, he is also one of the most profound inspirers the world has ever experienced. His words are weighty. His passion is palpable. His sincerity is soul-stirring. His courage is compelling. His delivery drives you to the place inside of yourself that wants to make a difference--despite the opposing forces and voices. You do not listen to Dr. King and not feel better; not feel valued; not feel a sense of obligation to finish what God has started in you.
Therefore, as I leave you this week, I leave you with this thought: While it is both a blessing and a burden to be Black, there is nothing else I would rather be. And because God saw fit to drape me in this beautiful Black skin I intend to continue to wear it as proudly as my ancestors did. I intend to let them live in me and breathe through me. I also intend to do my part to help lift some of the weariness off of Black men who are suffering silently under the pressure of hate and racism that ain't going nowhere.
I love you with my whole heart. Until next week, hear the words of Dr. King as he reminds us to never give up. Let's never give up on justice. Let's never give up on making the world a better place. Let's never give up on each other. Let's never give up on Black men because there are Black men doing totally amazing things in the world. I count myself blessed to know so many of them--to include the two I gave birth to.
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