At the end of 5th grade, a girl in my class left to move back to the country she and her family had come from. The country she was heading back to was regularly on the evening news for violent attacks on innocent civilians. I asked if she was scared going back there. Now, she and I weren’t besties by any stretch of the imagination, so her response could have been just her version of adolescent cool girl, but she said to me with a shoulder shrug, “You get used to it and don’t think about it much.”
I haven’t thought about that exchange in the nearly 30 years that have gone by since it happened, but it came flooding back today as I attempted my regularly scheduled Monday.
A black man is dead at the hands of a white man that should have protected him. Many black men are dead at the hands of white men that should have protected them. Black women aren’t exempt from this treatment either. Minorities, women, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community are victimized every day in this country, many times during the day. But news crews and cell phone camera vigilantes aren’t always there to capture each instance of injustice.
But they were there last week in Minnesota.
Just like they were there in Atlanta the week before, and in Texas the week before that. And I’m afraid my white privilege is showing now, because while I know there were many more instances on the news just in the last six months, I can’t remember where they happened, or who the victims were. And for that, I am ashamed.
There are protests happening all over the country, and right alongside them are rioters who have been sent to stir the pot, to have everyday people like my mother think that it’s the protestors destroying their own communities. I live outside Chicago, and two days ago, there was a report that pallets of bricks were being anonymously dropped off at intersections downtown. You know, as one casually does during a protest.
Our President is turning to Twitter and photo-ops, speaking in SEO keywords as he waves a Bible and talks about bringing in the military to battle his own citizens. This, after he told governors they were too weak to handle the protests. He ordered the tear-gassing of a protest right outside the White House, to fulfil his psychological needs.
Tonight, I turned off the news and went into my backyard. “This is my sanctuary,” I said out loud to no one, and it amazed me how easy it was to not think about what was going on. And that’s when the words of 30 years ago came back like a movie voiceover.
“You get used to it.”
I never thought I’d live anywhere that I’d get used to violence, oppression; tyranny. Like any of the standard clichés, it doesn’t happen all at once, but if you settle into the pan, you don’t even feel the water start to boil.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I stand in solidarity with the protestors, but it’s not enough. None of this is enough. I’m scared about what happens when our Commander in Chief decides to parade naked once more and none of his handlers want to point out his clothes are back in a pile in a dark White House. I do not want one more power-hungry white cop killing a Person of Color and then excusing it. I do not want one more conversation with someone where a human life becomes a political point.
I have three kids. I work at a school. I refuse to get used to this.