When Black Death Meets White Spaces
Photo of Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmaud Arbery’s death felt like a ripping in the earth. I can't say living in America has ever felt like I was standing on solid ground, but if extra unstable yesterday. I think there comes the point in every black person's life where they realize the world works differently for them. We realize that we don't have the same playing field despite what version of racial utopia they tell us we live in. We live in duality, code-switching, hiding pieces of ourselves for fear of being stereotyped.
I woke up thinking of Ahmaud. I thought about what he felt at that moment—the terror and anxiety. I thought about his flight or fight response. Thought about what was the moment he knew we wouldn’t make it home. They stalked him like prey and hunted him like they were on safari.
I wondered what he felt when he saw them.
Wonder if he saw glimpses of his life up to this moment. I wonder if it was the jogging that made them feel insecure, or was it his stature? Did they feel he had no right to be in their neighborhood? Did they come with their profile story before or after his last breathe?
I wondered if the ancestors covered him in peace.
Death by stereotype. I woke up thinking that I didn’t want to white today. I didn’t want to be in the presence of white people. I wanted to “call in black.” Wanted to crawl in bed and forget the images—the video. Our deaths become movies; the grand juries become “The Academy,” their votes decide how our story is told after death. If nominated, we get a trial but no guarantee that we will win the case. If they pass us by, we are shot down before we even get started—two deaths, one physical and one mental.
I wondered what we could do while black.
If we can't run, then we can’t walk.
If we can’t walk, then surrendering is out.
If surrendering doesn’t work, then we can’t breathe.
And if we can’t breathe, then we die.
All roads lead back to death, and I just want to call in black sometimes because whiteness is overpowering and debilitating.
I wondered if they were sleeping like babies. After they shot him down like cattle, I wonder if they had pleasant dreams. I wonder if they made breakfast with their families. I wonder if their wives looked at them as murderers. I wonder if their children now despised them. Did they feel shame or pride? Did they believe they protected their community? Did they think of the incident at all?
White privilege is the ability to turn off the emotions and memory associated with the killing of black and brown people.
I thought of Ahmaud when I looked at my son and my daughter yesterday. It was 68 degrees. The sun was shining as the trees swayed slightly. We were supposed to go on a walk; instead, we chose to stay inside.