I Can’t Breathe

LA Davis is a friend of mine, who I have asked to share this week. LA is someone I trust and knew would give a much needed perspective as well as her own experience with Racism in America.

January 2020 I believed, would be the year of clear vision and fresh beginnings. Well, I was wrong, 2020 has caused me to lose my breath over and over.

With COVID-19 as the green screen backdrop; Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Oh, and let’s not forget Christian Cooper (NYC bird watcher), who’s still breathing, but for a moment caused me to once again lose my breath.

All these incidents have highlighted the infectious disease of racism. Many thought it was cured while others thought it lay dormant, then there are folks like me that are infected and injected by it every day. The infectious virus of racism didn’t start yesterday, last week or a year ago, it’s rooted in history and has evolved over decades.

I grew up in a shore town in New Jersey, in an apartment complex with tenants that were all blood-related. My best friend was the only other child on the block aside from my siblings and cousins. Her family owned a restaurant that they lived above.

We played together daily; hung out at each other’s houses, went to school together, and attended each other’s birthday parties for as long as I can remember. We were alike in every way possible, except for the fact that she was white and I was black, and it never ever mattered.

After 8th grade, my family moved to an offshore town, and sometime later her family did the same. Our friendship has slowly diminished over the years and has become seldom Facebook hello’s.

Entering High School in the new community was a culture shock. I went from seeing more people who looked like me to being in this predominately white High School with kids that lived in affluent neighborhoods, with parents who were Doctors and Lawyers. Meanwhile, I humbly shared a two-bedroom apartment with my mother and two sisters.

My first experience of racism and what is now widely known today as white privilege was introduced to me during my freshman year. But I managed to survive it, all while not having a voice or voices to help navigate me through it. 

But did I really survive it? Fast forward. Both my sons, who are currently 26 and 21 years old attended and graduated from the same high school. Although, the school had become a little more diverse the generational curses of the past still remained.

During my oldest son’s sophomore year, I bought a house in an affluent neighborhood near the high school. My neighbors weren’t as welcoming as I thought they would be. My house started the block so I only had one neighbor next to me, which was occupied by an older white woman that I never met (she’s since died). I’d often catch a glimpse of her peeking through the curtains and when I acknowledged her presence, she would quickly duck away. Sadly, it was a fun little game for me. 

During one of my youngest sons sporting events, his team played against an opposing team that came from a predominantly African American community. After our team’s loss, my son who was not wearing his team jersey was told by an older white male “you people need to go back to where you belong”. Like any momma bear protecting her cub, I pounced, and let’s just say that man scurried away after being told that “his community” was also my community. (I gave you the radio edit, I didn’t know Jesus then.) This all happened in 2010.

There were times when I’d have visitors to my home and police officers would park in the vacant lot directly across the street from my house. I’ve had the police called on me during a graduation party for my son, allegedly for the music being too loud. 

My sons have been profiled, stopped by the police, asked where they were going or why they were traveling in a certain direction, stopped after being seen with white female classmates to ask the female if she was ok or felt safe. This was a reality, not a movie.

Oh, and by the way, I have been in Law Enforcement for 15 years, currently as a Detective. I am and have been the only black female police officer in my department. During the length of my employment, I have had personal experiences with discrimination as a female and more recently with disparaging racial comments said by a person of rank. 

So yeah, I’m having a tough time breathing lately! I can’t breathe at work, I can’t breathe in society and I can’t breathe in front of my sons who look at me as being a part of an entity that’s killing black and brown people in this country. They leave the house in fear, wondering AM I NEXT? 

I have no guarantees, all I have is faith and prayers for those fears and that reality for them to go away! Their fears are legit, my fears are legit and they shouldn’t be dismissed by people who don’t understand.

So while folks in this country are fighting to take off masks, to get hair cuts, to go shopping and golfing, I’m fighting an uncontainable virus rooted in hate.

My flesh wants to fight, kick and scream but because I didn’t invite God into it, I lose. So, I have to surrender the fight to him. 

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” 1 John 2:9

When I asked LA to write this week, I was so grateful that she said yes. You can hear glimpses of hope in what she writes as well as the raw emotions of a lifetime of experiencing racism. Her story is not just hers but the story of many others. For this reason, it is important to listen to what is being said by our brothers and sisters who are hurting and experience racism and then evaluate ourselves and search for areas we can do better.