By Cameron Clarke, Summer ’16 Contributing Columnist
Posted 5:58 PM EST, Tues. July 12, 2016
I TRIED TO AVOID WATCHING THE VIDEO.
When it appeared on my feed, I scrolled past it. When I saw it on the news, I looked away. When it came up in conversation, I lied and claimed I had seen it already. I made the appropriate expressions of horror and grief, so I changed the subject.
I didn’t need to see another shooting to know what happened. I had seen the videos of Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Walter Scott and so many others. I told myself that I did no one any good by subjecting myself to unnecessary pain.
But I did watch the video – by accident, more than by will. It came at the end of a documentary, almost without warning. I tried to turn away, but couldn’t. My shame had overwhelmed my discomfort.
What is it when your nation forces you to watch the execution of your fathers on every screen? What else is it when your government boasts of one justice system for your sons and another for your protectors? What else is it when you realize that, for your brother, no justice exists at all?
For 60 brutal seconds, I watched as two protectors lifted a father into the air and drove him to the concrete. I watched as they twisted his arms behind his back and shoved his head to the ground. I watched as they cried gun over his prone frame. And I watched as they pulled their weapons out and unloaded into his back. Testosterone. Adrenaline. Blood.
I thought I would feel angry on watching the video. I thought seeing the moments would arouse some righteous fury within me like the kind I feel every time I hear about George Zimmerman’s latest desecration of Trayvon Martin’s memory. I thought it might awaken the horror I feel every time another one of Freddie Gray’s killers is exonerated. But I felt a little more than a gnawing numb. It was the absence of feeling that scared me. It made me wonder if I was growing too tired to feel anymore.
BECAUSE I AM TIRED.
I’m tired of explanations and rationalizations. I’m tired of equivocating and exculpation. Tired of having to engage the man who reminds me the victim had a gun — as if owning a gun is a capital crime. As if selling bootleg CDs or loose cigarettes are punishable by death. As if a hoodie and a bag of Skittles are justifications for murder.
I’m tired of the people who will claim to cherish life and spit on the memory of loving fathers, sons, husbands, daughters and sisters as they violate them in the last, darkest moments of their lives.
I’m tired of the people who shout down our grief, telling us that the rhetoric of our pain – the anthem of our humanity – is an attack on our protectors. When the world refuses to acknowledge your humanity, if affirms that your importance itself is an act of violence.
I’m tired of the people who derail and point to Black crime statistics as exoneration.
“People tend to kill the people they live around. Black people are among the most hyper-segregated group in the country. The fact that black killers tend to kill other black people is not refutation of American racism, but the ultimate statement of American racism.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’m tired of marching. I’m tired of demonstrating. I’m tired of putting my hands up, lying face down on the ground and screaming my pain in train stations full of strangers. I’m tired of chanting outside the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the Supreme Court to no avail. I’m tired of demanding our president to do more, as if he isn’t just as bound as the rest of us. As if it couldn’t just as easily have been him, if he were alone on any given night.
I’m tired of clenched jaws, stiffened spines in front of flashing lights and the nervous laughter when sirens pass. I’m tired of my voice cracking when I talk to a protector – tired of straining my eyes to avoid his gun. I’m tired of wondering if he sees me as a threat. I’m tired of the casual truisms. It’s like the old saying goes: “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” But yet, it’s a small comfort when my existence feels like a crime.
I’m tired of the perpetual, final straws of countless days spent awaiting guilty verdicts that will never come. I’m tired of having off the grim intuition that the reason no convictions are returned is because this is what the law intended. I’m tired of denying that the system is working exactly as designed.
I’m tired of silence. Tired of the people who want to continue to live their lives as though nothing is wrong and meeting the execution of citizens with a shrug. They live as though their lives were not corrupted by their silent sanction of our slaughter. And I’m tired of the fact that I can’t even put my words to paper without another life exploding on national television. May Philando Castile rest in peace.
I WAS TIRED, SO I CLOSED MY EYES.
I tried to blind myself to Alton Sterling’s murder. But in shying from his reality, I did us both a disservice. I bent to the impulse that seeks comfort, instead of heeding the one that seeks justice. That was a mistake.
Cameron Clarke is a senior biology & community health double major from Jersey City, New Jersey. In addition, Clarke works as the associate director of the Howard University Student Association’s Department of Health & Wellness, as a student peer educator with the Howard University Substance Abuse and HIV Outreach Program (HU-SHOP), as a student researcher in Howard University Medical School and Howard University Hospital, a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, and at the Columbia School of Public Health.
Contact him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/thinkwhileblack.