This Independence Day morning I decided to walk to the grocery store to get some milk and juice. It was to serve a dual purpose: mind clearing, rejuvenating exercise and necessary errand. The skies were cloudy so it wasn’t too hot. Eric Reed & Cyrus Chestnut’s “Prayer” was playing in my earbuds; a near perfect mix of jazz, blues and gospel. The early morning hour helped ensure I was in the company of a different set of God’s creatures; deer, geese and rabbit and not many humans. And even with all that, racism’s residue managed to creep in!
When I left the store I realized my music took a back seat to the voice in my head that screamed “F@%k Racism”! Out of nowhere I started worrying about things that only those directly affected by racism would understand. If you don’t understand then you ain’t affected. Racism’s residue has stolen so much of my time over my 52 years… wiggled it’s way into my thoughts so many times throughout my life.
Despite many positive role models there were moments where I suffered from doubt… truth be told there still are from time to time. I often find remnants of racism hoarding valuable space in my already cluttered mind. For example, why the hell do I still remember my Maryland Driver’s license number 37 years after I got it and almost 10 years after I turned it in for a North Carolina Driver’s license? The question made me reflect with anger and sorrow simultaneously. The anger was all mine but the sorrow was for my parents. How many of my extended adolescent nights had I caused them to worry?
I was mad my thoughts went where they went. Mad that I had to memorize my driver’s license number because as a Black male teenager growing up in Baltimore (or anywhere else for that matter), you didn’t want to go into your pocket for anything. We were taught to keep our hands in plain sight and to be respectful – even if the police were not. “No sense being right AND dead” we were told. “Cemetery’s full of folk who were ‘right’ “, said others.
I then found my thoughts bending toward a consciousness of what I was wearing (tee shirt, cap, sneakers and shorts) and whether or not I had need of my receipt… not for proof of purchase but proof of “whereabouts” for an alibi in case something “happened” to any one, any where in the city during my walk between the store and home because “you just never know”. But what could happen? I was walking home with milk and orange juice, right? Oh, but wait, wasn’t Trayvon “just” walking from the store to his home? And wasn’t Tamir “just” playing by himself in broad daylight?
Sometimes there is nothing “just” in the way America deals with justice… or is it the way she deals with just “us”?