The Flood

Letters

I woke up today to a flood. A hurricane of photos. A memorial service trapped in my phone. 

I am drowning.

When black people are killed, which they always are, the horror comes unobscured. Another natural disaster befallen people who have lived through a million earthquakes. A thousand tornados. Daily typhoons. They come steadily. Consistently destructive. 

James Baldwin said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time,” but I believe this is only one stop on the stages of grief we go through daily: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. 

And none of them bring Ahmaud Arbery back to life. 

None of them free the black men down the street from the jails that are now death chambers. 

None of them humanize the pain of black women

This morning, when I read the story of Ahmaud’s death, I felt every stage of grief in one moment. I feel unworthy to even write these words about a life I know so little about. I am not the woman who pushed him out of her body and into the world. I am not the family who fed him and loved and watched him grow. I cannot know the impossibility of that grief. I cannot bring myself to post his photo. I will not use him as a political statement. He was a man, barely older than me, full of life and then gone. 

I have only been mourning him a few hours and yet he left the earth months ago. Who am I to claim his death a platform for my outrage? 

I am taking my outrage today and holding it in my two hands. When I look at it, I see a suffocated dream. A dream of a world where I could have a child and believe wholeheartedly that they might outlive me. That their brown body might grow old like a beautiful oak tree. That their skin may know the love of sun rays on a Sunday afternoon jog. That they might return home to me, body and spirit intact. Alive alive alive. 

For now, this is a dream. A dream trying to break through the plans made hundreds of years ago and reinforced daily. Written into every law. Crafted in every image. Planted inside our hearts and minds. Watered with money and hatred. 

But I hold that dream deep inside. It’s been handed down by those before me who have chosen to live and make life in a country that was built at their expense. And that is why I am here. Because even in the face of horror we didn’t stop dreaming. 

To my white friends reading this, please hold your own outrage. Look at it. Were those men driving the truck and carrying the guns your kin? Where does the shame you feel come from? How have you grown since the last flood? Since the last digital memorial service? What have you done? Are you still watching from dry land? 

Do not perform outrage today; feel it and change. 

I often go silent in these moments. Everything feels incorrect. Inappropriate. Today, I allow every emotion. I let the flood waters baptize me. I come back to life even more committed to the dream of those descendants running in the sun. Free. Beautiful. Alive.

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