United in Strength

Writers, activists and elected officials pen op-eds to try and make sense of George Floyd, police brutality, protests and what comes next.

Black Lives Matter

It happened again. In the days after Memorial Day, the world watched George Floyd take his last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. Protests ensued in Minnesota, here in Detroit and around the nation, punctuated by calls for justice for George, an end to police brutality – and to end policing altogether.

As of this writing, parts of the country are literally burning. We’re indignant, we’re depressed, we’re frustrated, we’re confused, but mostly, we’re just tired. We asked writers, activists, politicians and Black mothers to try and put into words what they – and all of us – are feeling and thinking right now, from their unique perches. Though what happened to George Floyd is painfully familiar, we’ve been saying this one also somehow feels different.

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Only time will tell whether we’re romanticizing, whether the passion in our bellies will be doused by the next thing only to be reignited in six months when we’re forced to chant the name of yet another Black life lost. Or maybe, this time, enough was actually enough.

In the Fight for Justice, Where Do You Stand?

By Demeeko Williams 

Marvin Gaye sang, “Picket lines and picket signs. Don’t punish me, with brutality.” Young people are done taking it from a racist system set up to disenfranchise and keep Black people from rising as the majority race in this country. When I saw the video of George Floyd being killed by the knee of a police officer, I was furious and ready to declare war.

I am sick and tired of seeing Black men who look like me, talk like me and exist just like me being killed at the hands of crooked police officers, and the murderers in blue often walk away free with no charges and no justice. And I am sick and tired of seeing families cry out for justice only to be denied it.

Outraged with what I saw in that video, I called one of my good friends – a Black woman who is also tired of seeing brothers and sisters be killed, hurt or maimed by racist police officers – and she inspired me to hold a rally and protest to demand justice be served and to address the issue of police brutality.

The rally happened on Friday, May 29 and attracted over 3,000 people of all races and nationalities demanding justice for the killing of George Floyd and all the others. But as the night went on, there were reports of skirmishes with police, with officers deploying tear gas and beating innocent protestors.

After the protests in Detroit, I was invited to go to Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed, to show solidarity and to support the people there. After a nine-hour drive, we arrived in the city and saw boarded up businesses, signs on doors saying “Justice for George Floyd” or “Black-owned business, don’t loot.”

The smoke billowing out of burned down structures created a dark cloud that hung thick over the city; it hits your gut and makes you feel sick. We visited the strip mall where the infamous Target and AutoZone were burned. When we arrived to the safe house, our host was a white lady and her son, both concerned and organizing to get justice for George Floyd.

This is more than a rebellion or even an uprising. This is a final stand caused by years of Black people being killed with no regard or a damn given about their life, and then the instant grief and anger placed on families. People have every right to be angry and upset.

In Minneapolis, we met with some Black organizers from across the city via Zoom. This call was so powerful. We were able to hear from them, understand what their issues are and how they are trying to unify people, instill peace and deal with the police. I learned plenty from these amazing organizers who are putting their livelihoods – and lives – on the line. I learned that you have to step back, listen and observe the scene.

You do not get to speak if you’re not from the community or don’t know the severity of issues that have been building for years. You listen and wait, and offer support. Respect is a big thing in that community; they are open to having white allies and supporters play a background role but not to be the face of the Black community.

As we were heading back home to Detroit, I heard that a 21-year-old was shot and killed after that first Friday-night protest. My heart sank and my whole world just went dark at the news that an innocent kid was killed demonstrating his right to be heard.

On the ride back to Detroit, we made a pit stop in Chicago and rode along the Magnificent Mile, looking at the damage done and at the police protecting those buildings and businesses. If only they’d protect Black lives like they do the elites of capitalism.

At one moment, Stevie Wonder’s “Black Man” started playing on the radio. What a fitting tune for the current climate. I am a child of God who learns from the best of history, and we must stand up and push back against racist police, outside agitators and infiltrators, and a president hellbent on killing our people and destroying our communities. We are all beyond fed up, and we and won’t take it anymore.

Demeeko Williams is an activist and the chief director of Hydrate Detroit, a 501(c)(3) water rights organization that provides water restoration help to Detroit residents.

Do Black Lives Really Matter to Detroit’s White Gays?

By Aaron Foley

There’s a popular gay man in Detroit I follow who is not white, but certainly white-adjacent in that just like almost every gay white man I know in the city, he has some Black gay friends on social media but no actual proof that he has Black gay friends in real life, or any friends of color at all.

I try not to think about the Facebook photos of relative strangers. But, like clockwork, anytime said gay man sees a heated moment regarding Black people, he posts a generic Facebook status that’s a half-assed statement to show some kind of solidarity, even though I know this man’s inner circle doesn’t have a single Black face in it.

There’s been much conversation about what white people should do in Detroit right now, and how should white people talk in Detroit right now, and how should white people listen in Detroit right now, as if right now is the first time there’s been outrage over a Black person’s murder at the hands of police.

Good Lord, here in 80% Black Detroit, white people have been moving in at such a clip for the past few years and they still haven’t figured out the walk and talk, and right now is the time they want to figure it out? Well, as a Black Detroiter, I’m starting to get tapped out by explaining to white Detroiters again and again and again how Detroit works. But I do want to talk to one specific segment of the white – and white-adjacent – Detroit population: The ones that identify as LGBT.

Because as I survey the many, many friends I have across social platforms, white LGBT Detroiters are either the most opportunistic or the most silent. Right now, when the police are killing us as they usually do, our white-adjacent friend queried Facebook with some obvious peacocking: “Does anyone know where I can get a BLM yard sign?”

And that’s when I just about lost it. Because my beef is this: Did it take a police tragedy for you to recognize that Black lives matter, especially when you live in a city like Detroit? Do Black lives matter to white and white-adjacent gay Detroiters when Michigan’s largest and Blackest public school district has to be sued to provide its students with a quality education? Do Black lives matter when this majority-Black city is still one of the most impoverished in the nation?

Or do Black lives only matter when you’re taking a break between posting thirst traps and liking tweets with the N-word in it to make an empty display of allyship just to garner a few extra likes? I ask this seriously as a Black gay Detroiter who has always been concerned about the inherited attitudes – learned from their white parents and grandparents who were the pilots of white flight – white suburbanites bring into the city, but coupling that with the well-documented bigotry harbored by many white gays, and what that means for the metro area’s LGBT community at large.

So, as is the usual burden for Black people, we have to tell our white friends what to do right now, I guess. Well, speaking directly to my Pronto! and Soho friends, here’s what you guys can do. You know that gut reaction you’re probably feeling right now, the one that’s telling you that the LGBT struggle is the same as the civil rights struggle and that gay is the new Black? Drop it.

There are certainly similarities in both communities’ fight for equality, but know that Black Americans’ struggle to be recognized as, well, Americans, has been ongoing for 400 years. White gays were not brought to this country to be used as property.

Here in Detroit, specifically, it’s also understanding that if you live in a city full of Black people. That means you have to actually take time to get to know a Black person – and their culture, without appropriating it, mind you – more than your immediate neighbor or a co-worker or a casual Facebook friend.

Taking time to understand our complex, nuanced history in this city will make you an informed ally, and it’s far better to be informed than to be performative. Our pain is not your ticket to compete with your other white gay friends for rewards over who’s the best ally. Because if you truly understood us, you’ll find out that Black Detroiters won’t give you any prize for the bare minimum.

Aaron Foley is a journalist and author, was editor of BLAC Detroit from 2015 to 2017 and the City of Detroit’s first chief storyteller from 2017 to 2019.

Mothers All Over Heard George Floyd’s Cries 

By Desiree Cooper

We have endured too many horrific videos of Black men being gunned down, choked off and bleeding out. But the public execution of George Floyd has stirred something primal; it has struck at the hearts of mothers. Late on Memorial Day, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used his knee to choke the life out of a 46-year-old African American father who had gone out to buy cigarettes.

It took nine months for Floyd’s mother to bring him into the world, and we all watched as it took nine minutes for the racist, sadistic officer to take him out. After submitting, pleading, moaning and weeping all failed, Floyd did the only thing a hopeless soul can do – he called for his mother.

I am the mother of an adult son who has quarantined with me in Virginia these past few months. In the days following the murder, we have struggled to keep each other’s spirits aloft as we have watched America’s cities burn. Right now, we are helpless to engage in the big questions, but we are also helpless to engage in the smaller questions, too. Like why my child will always be my gentle, precious baby (he’s 32), but to the world, he is an animal.

On the Saturday after the murder, we escaped the horror of the news to take a long drive. As the landscape got more rural, he got less comfortable. As African Americans, we know that green places – green with money or green with nature – hold special dangers. He kept commenting about the woods. We passed a road named “West Neck,” and he read it “Red Neck.”

When we approached a traffic jam on a two-lane road, I strained to see what was going on, while he grew rigid and silent. When we neared the reason for the snarl, we were both relieved that there were no police – only onlookers slowing down to avoid a giant turtle taking its time crossing the road.

We stopped at a seafood diner to eat, sitting outside, away from the entirely white (and friendly) staff and clientele. I thought it would be a treat, but I immediately saw my mistake. He was hyperaware the whole time, his ears in the conversations around us, uncomfortable with the distance to the bathroom, constantly checking his surroundings.

I kept telling him it was OK. He tried to trust me. He wanted to trust me. But he had already been arrested, handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police car like a common criminal three times for minor traffic infractions, like a busted taillight or expired tags. He knows what all Black men know: In those moments, his mother can’t save him.

And yet, that doesn’t stop our boys from calling out to us. When I heard Floyd use his last breaths to rasp “Mama!” I lost it, especially after knowing his mother was two years gone. If you are a mother, you know that flutter in your heart when you hear your child’s call. The reflex is so umbilical that even when you hear someone else’s child cry out at the mall, in the park or at the grocery store, your ears prick and your muscles tense.

When Floyd cried out, his mother couldn’t respond to him, but mothers everywhere did. In the days since his murder, it’s been hard not to feel helpless as we cradle our grief. But remember that one mother is capable of transforming the world, and when mothers band together, there is no greater force.

It was a West Virginia mother who nursed soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and led the establishment of the original Mother’s Day as a peace movement, not a day for brunches. It was mothers who paved the way to peace between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

It was mothers who formed a powerful force to stop the tragic outcomes of drunk driving. Mothers are protecting girls from child marriage, stopping the destruction of the environment, demanding reproductive justice that includes the right to raise children free from poverty, violence and oppression.

At this moment, grandmothers from all walks of life are on their knees, mothers are weeping, pregnant women are wondering what kind of world will await their babies. Sorrow and anger fill our wombs. We hear our Black men cry “Mama” and we don’t know how we can possibly save them. But they never stop calling us, never stop believing that we will.

Desiree Cooper is BLAC Detroit’s regular columnist and the author of Know the Mother.

Voting is How to Turn Your Anger to Action 

By Janice M. Winfrey

The nationwide protests highlighting the fact that racial injustices still exist in America and the disproportionate number of infections and deaths of African Americans from the coronavirus is a desperate call for voters to rise and exercise their constitutional right to vote.

The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges that prohibit large events, mass gatherings and require social distancing. In late March, the city of Detroit was identified as a COVID-19 “hot spot,” which raised concerns that voting in person could be unsafe. It was determined that a predominant mail-in election is a safer, convenient and viable solution for voters.

Even if the coronavirus is under control by November, many voters (and poll workers) may be reluctant to enter a polling place that serves high-risk communities. Voting by mail is the most straightforward way to ensure that voters can safely cast a ballot. Opening a select few voting centers for voters who choose to cast their ballot in person is equally important.

A well-administered vote-by-mail election must be transparent, accessible and reliable. In adverse circumstances, such as a worldwide pandemic, alternatives that might have been otherwise rejected now become the better option. For this reason, a vote-by-mail election requires immediate action from our policymakers in Lansing to ensure voters are not disenfranchised during the 2020 election cycle.

Needed to make a vote-by-mail election happen is an amendment to election law to allow more time for processing absentee ballots, technology upgrades like high-speed counting machines and an assurance that ballots will be available to all voters. The requirement of needing to request a ballot or the absentee voter application should be lifted as drastic times call for drastic measures.

For the August and November 2020 elections, the city of Detroit will mail absentee ballot applications to over 500,000 registered voters. To make it more convenient for voters to securely return their ballot and safely exercise their civil right to vote, the Detroit Department of Elections will enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. The election process has built-in checks and balances to verify that every cast ballot is counted.

In May 2020, the New York Times published an article about a Bangladeshi family in Minneapolis who, after finding out that their restaurant was severely damaged by fire during the protests, still supported the movement. The owner said, “Let my restaurant burn. Justice needs to be served.” Although this business owner experienced a personal loss to his livelihood, he understood that fundamentally while his business will be replaced, the life of George Floyd cannot.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a response to peaceful civil rights marches that took place in the South. Voting rights supporters who attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama were met by state troopers who attacked them with batons and tear gas after they refused to turn back. Some protesters were severely beaten and bloodied.

The incident was captured on national television and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which increased African American voter turnout across the South. In Mississippi alone, African American voter turnout increased from 6% in 1964 to 59% in 1969.

Today, citizens – particularly young adults who feel voiceless, frustrated and angry about the lack of social change and the erosion of their civil rights – should be encouraged to express their grievances by exercising their constitutional right to vote. The lack of respect for African American citizens exhibited at the national and local levels on a daily basis provides a fertile environment for the tragedy that happened to George Floyd.

We all should be upset and outraged about the treatment of African Americans, and the only way to change the narrative is to cast our ballot and be heard. Rise up Detroit and vote during the 2020 election cycle. You have the power to exact justice by electing leaders who support your values.

Janice M. Winfrey is the Detroit city clerk and chairperson of the Detroit Election Commission.

White Parents Need to Open Their Eyes

By Julia Elliott

“I can’t watch it. It’s just too hard, too sad, too depressing.” I’ve heard a version of that sentiment from a lot of people about the video footage of George Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis police officer, and I understand. If you have just a modicum of empathy, it should be hard to watch. It should make you sad. And it should be a sadness that lingers.

Black people have earned the right to avert their eyes if they want to. It’s a story you know too well. But no white person has earned that abdication. White parents in particular need to watch the video footage. Every horrible second.

Because not only are they the generation in power that can help affect change right now, they are raising the next generation that can build on that progress to bring us to a day when there are no videos like this to either avoid or watch in horror.

Racism is a network of weeds and it’s going to take a multigenerational whacking to eradicate. It’s the seemingly innocuous acts white people do all the time – clutch their purses, lock their car doors, cross the street when a Black man walks by. So many little dandelion seeds of suspicion blowing through the wind spreading hatred, springing up in Central Park when a Black man politely asks you to follow the rules.

It’s the crabgrass of systemic racism that is spread across our country. You see it in the reduced access to education, health care and higher-paying jobs that lead to higher rates of incarceration and mortality – whether it’s for expectant mothers or COVID-19 patients.

The worst manifestation is the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin and on and on … Like ragweed, it comes back year after year, bringing tears to our eyes. We’ve had moments throughout our country’s history where we have dug up some of these weeds, but the roots are stubborn and strong.

And well-meaning white people get lazy, so whatever progress we make is often undone. Too many of us feel absolved of responsibility because we didn’t crush the life out of someone with our knee, we didn’t gun someone down for eating Skittles in a hoodie, we didn’t call 911 on someone for being a person of color in our presence. Congratulations if you aren’t one of those white people. But it’s not enough.

We have to own the truth of racism in all of its ugly forms. We have to listen to our Black and brown friends without justifying or qualifying. We have to ask what we can do – and we need to do it. We need to call out racist jokes, statements and actions – even if it’s our relatives, especially if it’s in front of our children.

We need to teach white children that racism is their problem, too, even if they are not the victims of it. They need to grow up instilled with a sense of duty to be part of the solution. Because we have reached a point where if you aren’t actively fighting against racism, you are helping to keep it alive and are part of the problem. And we – white people, white parents – need to watch the damn video.

In those last moments of Mr. Floyd’s life, the 6-foot-7-inch, 46-year-old man gasped for air, begged for water and called out for his mother. He was so vulnerable, scared and desperate that he summoned the woman who brought him into this world when he felt himself leaving it. It was a heart-breaking reminder: George Floyd was someone’s child.

She changed his diapers, held cold compresses to his fevered forehead, taped his art on the wall. She loved him and protected him. Yet she couldn’t save him from a society that sees his skin color as a threat, that treated him as less deserving of dignity and mercy.

So now, it’s up to all mothers and fathers – POC and, yes, white – to come together and work toward a day when racism is not a perennial plague on our nation. The work – just like that video – is hard, sad and depressing. But it must be done and it must be done by all of us.

Julia Elliott is the content director for Metro Parent and Chicago Parent, two regional parenting publications whose goal is to provide support, advice and resources to parents raising the next generation.

This is Every Black Mother’s Worst Nightmare 

By Melissa Shelby

Mommy can you help me?” my almost 5-year-old son yells from my bedroom. I’m across the hall in my home office watching the video of George Floyd’s now-lifeless body on the ground. He called out for his mama as Sonny is calling out for me. I wipe my tears and go into my room where I hug and hold my son, an act of affection that I do often but it was more intentional this time.

He wanted me to help him turn to Power Rangers on the TV. I rub his head, feeling quite powerless, telling him how awesome and smart he is and reminding him of my undying love for him. As I sat there with him, I kept thinking, What if in the future, in a similar video, it is my son calling out to me with his last breath?

Watching a human being demeaned, degraded and killed in front of bystanders in a video has evoked strong emotions of anger and paranoia in me, and I am not alone. A continuum of unarmed African American men being killed by white police officers has brown mothers all over the nation saddened and afraid.

I sat and spoke with my friend Claire, who has a 17-year-old son named Kevin. “For almost a month, I’ve had a reoccurring nightmare,” Claire said, her voice shaking. “I’m at home in my bed and I wake up to a pounding on my front door. I jump up and before I can get down the stairs, there is more knocking, intense knocking where you know something is happening. I open it and my neighbor Tina is hysterical. ‘He was almost home to you,’ Tina said.” Claire instantly knows that the “he” is Kevin.

She continues: “Then, I see police cars and flashing lights. I run off my porch towards the lights. Seconds later, I stop when I approach Kevin’s brown limp body in the street. I go to pick my son up off the pavement – but he’s heavy and lifeless. I just want to take him home where it’s safe. But I can’t get him up. I’m pleading with everyone around to help me get him up – but no one moves. They all appear sympathetic but stuck. Finally, after what feels like forever, I surrender to the notion that Kevin is dead. I kneel down beside him, put my head on his chest and loudly sob,” she said, sniffling.

“Then I wake up from that nightmare, thankful that the torture I endured was only in my sleep.” Many mothers are grappling with the same emotions as Claire, the uncomfortable truth that her nightly subconscious terror can become tomorrow’s reality, a fact that they’re forced to face.

During labor and delivery, my doctor said, “When he is born, you will not hear him cry because I need to clean him out first. It will only be a few seconds but to you it may feel like five hours.” She prepared me. The silence was scary but I kept thinking, It’s OK because he will cry soon – he will breathe. 

Seeing him take his first breath is a very special personal memory. I try not to imagine that his last breath will be recorded on a cellphone with a knee on his neck – a horrific national memory that has reminded African American women that our sons are born with a burden that we cannot hide them from.

An unconcealed burden that consists of pleas to preserve brown life and having to remind others that Black lives matter, too. A burden of stereotypes and qualifiers that our sons will inevitably have to endure. A burden of being denied and dismissed simply because of the color of their skin. A burden of questioning the intention of the judicial system, fighting racial injustices and knowing that doing so too loudly may lead to their demise. A burden, not a gift.

And so, we wait. The African American community will wait to find out the uncertain fate of the officers that George Floyd encountered. Many minds are pessimistic having seen unfavorable outcomes in the past. But nonetheless, we wait. Some are protesting and rioting. Some fasting and praying. Some simply hugging their sons a little longer and tighter. All awakened to the pain and the burden that comes with being Black.

Melissa Shelby is a writer, realtor, wife and mother of two in Farmington Hills.

Mad, Black but With a Job to Do

By Paris Giles

The reason I gravitated toward magazine writing in lieu of straightforward news is that I wanted the freedom to weave a story. I wanted to be allowed the time to sleep with a topic, let it play softly but distractingly in the background of my day to day before bringing it forward and letting it speak.

Also attractive is that I don’t need to completely remove myself from the narrative. I can tell you a story from my childhood or how I felt talking to a source, if it’ll help color in the picture. Don’t let anyone lie to you. There is no such thing as unbiased journalism much like there is no such thing as an unbiased cop or judge or jury.

We’re all human beings with pasts and principles who bring who we are to work with us each day, toting memories, opinions, philosophies – or an interaction we had, perhaps, just minutes before. The beautiful thing about writing for BLAC is that the bias is uncloaked and expected. I’m writing for my tribe.

I’m a Black woman from Detroit editing a publication that serves Detroit’s Black community, and so you can expect the “5 Ways Trump Made America Great Again” pieces to be few and far between. Still, mine is not a power that should go unchecked – it’s truly a balancing act. I’m not scribbling in my personal diary, and my people deserve more than to just be indulged.

They deserve real information delivered in a thoughtful way that amplifies voices that are historically muffled by other outlets. And that’s the substantial task with which we’ve been charged in light of George Floyd’s death: to be observant, empathetic and considerate of the why and the now what.

No matter what the Black girl in me may type in group texts or vocalize in mid-day rants, the “unbiased” journalist that cohabitates within her can’t use the word “murderer” until convictions have been handed down, but what I can do is grant a platform to less restrained folks who’d happily smear pigs’ blood on their faces and screech it from the streets.

I attended the first day of protests here in Detroit. I showed up mask in one hand, phone in the other and anxious energy in my gut, ready to take pictures and video, and get quotes from protesters. I asked questions that emboldened them to vent the frustration that we all feel, starting most of the brief interviews with, “Tell me why you’re pissed off.”

I didn’t challenge anyone except the guy in his early 20s who said that all white cops should be banned, and not because I necessarily disagree, but more because the provocative point of view deserved a follow-up. About two hours in, my phone died, and I thought about hitting it back to my car so I could get to a charger and start uploading some of what I’d captured to social media and our site, but I inexplicably couldn’t seem to detach.

I tried once on Michigan near Ottava Via and then again on Third in front of the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters where the rally had started, and once more near Campus Martius before finally succumbing to the will of my ancestors.

The call was too strong. In that moment, George, Ahmaud, Breonna and all the other Black lives lost needed my Chucks on the ground more than they needed my fingers on a keyboard. And so, I replaced my black-and-white hat with an all-black version and stomped on with the thousands, joining in chants of “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot,” and raising my fist in response to the honks of solidarity coming from the cars we passed.

Still, a journalist never completely changes her spots, and so all the while I’m taking mental notes of those details that I knew would prove useful in a future story, like that we walked east on Congress and north up Woodward, and that some signs calling for a revolution were erected on disassembled Bud Light beer cases and Little Caesars pizza boxes.

Paris Giles is BLAC Detroit’s senior editor.

You Can’t Tell the Traumatized How to React

By Sirrita Darby

Over the last month, we had to grieve the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd as they all became ancestors. My heart broke for their families knowing that their loved ones’ last few moments were being consumed around the world. I found myself feeling despair and grief.

Although I tried to actively avoid watching the videos to avoid the emotional turmoil, I realized that you don’t have to witness the shooting to be traumatized by it. It is documented that victims of trauma and grief express their reactions differently.

Some become numb to avoid the overwhelming tide of emotions, while others react with anger, despair, sadness, disappointment, shock or even suffer a mental breakdown. I experienced a mixture of all of it. The trauma that is endured by the Black community spans across centuries. The only difference is that with social media, we have quicker and unfiltered public access to it.

Advances in modern technology and the 24-hour news cycle makes the circulation of traumatizing images and videos of white police officers murdering unarmed Black people a Hollywood motion picture experience. It is traumatizing. Not just hearing about and watching someone else’s death but also worrying about what I might be doing while minding my own business that will get me killed, or my son or my brother or my students.

It is exhausting in a way that you can feel in the very marrow of your bones and in the soles of your feet. To be Black in America is to be engulfed in a constant state of rage. It is to be irate. It is to be scared. We are emotionally drained. We are numb. We are traumatized.

This is nothing new, though. The systems in place that uphold white supremacy need to be shut down. And who would have thought that in the middle of a global pandemic and imminent economic crisis that we would light America on fire. Let’s be perfectly clear: The response from the Black community is not a riot – it’s a rebellion and it is warranted.

The looting, the rebellion, the outrage is yet another way to get through the trauma. Some may care more about buildings and merchandise than they do about the public killing of a helpless Black man by state actors. And if you do, don’t ask me if looting is going to solve the problem.

Because a conversation about Black lives, Black trauma, the meaning of racism today and how to provide healing are actually much more important than conversations about stuff that can be regained tomorrow. But Ahmaud, Breonna and George will unfortunately forever be ancestors.

Social justice work is mental health work. The Black community does not mourn in isolation, and so we cannot heal in isolation. We cannot heal and overcome what the world has inflicted on us without actively changing the system that constructed the pain. Our collective mental wellness is important, and we are fighting to heal generational trauma for those who come after us.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic with plenty of mandates on staying home, wearing a mask and social distancing, and yet there is no moratorium on taking Black lives. And I am exhausted. We are exhausted. Justice for George Floyd. Justice for Ahmaud Arbery. Justice for Breonna Taylor. Justice for [insert name here]. The list goes on. Remember their names.

Sirrita Darby is a trauma advocate and researcher, teacher and executive director of Detroit Heals Detroit.

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