Early Wednesday morning as I was scrolling through Instagram, I saw a meme that read “Six Shots” and the caption read #AltonSterling. The sad thing is that I already knew what had transpired before I even knew the story. The combination of that meme and caption let me know that a black person had been murdered by a white law enforcement officer. I had no details. I had no information. Yet, I already knew. The fact that I knew means that this has become all too common.
I couldn’t even react in that moment. I couldn’t fill with rage. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t do anything. I was literally just numb. So numb that I purposely stayed away from social media and didn’t turn on the TV. I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to watch the videos, (but I eventually did anyway). I didn’t want to post anything using the hashtag (but I eventually did anyway).
But why was I numb? How come I didn’t feel anything? Probably because living right outside Chicago has almost completely numbed me to murder. White cop/black victim, Black thug/black victim—all of that. There I was still trying to process over 80 shootings in Chicago over the holiday weekend and then I have to digest this. But all I felt was nothing. I was numb. And I never want to be okay with being numb to someone being murdered. EVER.
My cousin summed it up best. “Girl, you are numb because we are traumatized.” I screamed, “YES! OMG, YES!” It was liberating to hear her verbalize what I had been trying to figure out all day. That’s why I can barely feel anything anymore. I’m suffering from traumatic stress. That explained why earlier in the day, I vividly envisioned how it would play out if we were pulled over for a traffic violation. I strategically thought everything out. How the cop would start out being utterly disrespectful. How I might get a little sassy with him because sometimes my lip can be flip. How I know better though because that could cost me my life. How he would yank my husband from the vehicle and then thrust him to the ground. How I would be screaming. How they would yank me out too. And before I knew it, my husband would be dead. Maybe I would be dead too. No firearm. Not guilty of anything other than maybe driving too fast because we speed sometimes. Only in Black America can you be murdered for speeding.
What would my hashtag be? Would it include my middle initial because I am crazy about that “R”? Would they dig up my college mugshot to paint me as the criminal when in reality I was the one who left the scene in a body bag? Then my thoughts shifted. I prayed that one of my daughters would know enough to grab my cell phone and start recording. I thought, “Dang, now I can’t ever change the passcode on my phone. I need her to be able to access it. And I need to tell her to make sure anytime we get pulled over to start taping.”
WHY the heck is that what’s consuming my thoughts? Why is that my reality? Because in a split second, my family or friends can become a hashtag. And damn it, we are traumatized! When you are a victim of trauma, your mind relives tragic moments. You’re super paranoid and on edge. Constant thoughts that something terrible is going to happen plague you daily.
Before I could even finish penning this post, I saw another hashtag: #PhilandoCastile. (Insert real tears) We are tired of hashtags. We are sick of the lynchings. We never get a reprieve or a time to heal. We are traumatized. But what you should know is that people who suffer from traumatic stress are dangerous. Extremely dangerous. We just need to be fully awake to act. They have sounded the alarm and we are woke now! Brace yourselves for the revolution. It may or may not be televised.