If I believed that this world gave trigger warnings to black folk, I might ask for one before each time they show me you, Tamir. The way the ground comes out from under me, and my throat tightens. I sit around thinking about the lethality of existence and hope to God that there are playgrounds in the afterlife. I remind myself that it is not so crazy at all to believe in a world where you would be free.
Breathe because he cannot.
I’ve been having a recurring conversation lately and have been hearing people speak in the same ways. These conversations mainly happen in liberal spaces with people who would identify themselves that way as well. It’s about what they view as progress, and what they feel necessary to convince me is a world that is better for black people. And when I push against that they often react defensively, spouting out changes in the law and believing that they must convince me to have hope.
I don’t need these people to convince me to have hope. It’s the single greatest factor that gets me out of bed each morning. In a panel on black minds at church, an academic named Tiffany spoke of Cornel West’s idea of the difference between hope and optimism. Optimism keeps us trying in situations even when it is clear the conditions are not right. Hope allows us to let the suffering speak. The only way we can bring about meaningful and lasting changes is to ground ourselves in suffering. When I push and push and push, it’s not because I think we have not moved – black people have survived and moved forward despite the climate of anti-blackness – it’s because I need people to understand just how much work they need to do and how much has to be sacrificed for there to be an end to suffering.
At an equity training last week in Oakland, a woman talked about understanding how large the problems are and that there would always be black boys in the principal’s office, but hopefully, there would not be as many over time. I looked around to see some people nodding along, clearly identifying with her sentiment. A wave of emotions washed over me, and I spoke after her about radical imagination and the necessary work of being able to work toward something we do not know yet what it looks like. We have to push ourselves to imagine what we’ve never known.
In those conversations, in that woman’s statement, is a “middle space” that they wish to rest black bodies in. The kind that measures the world by a measurement created by them so ‘good enough’ feels like winning. It wants us to stay nestled in spaces where because some black people are alive and well, then it’s a sign that all is well. My entire being rejects this.
I don’t want to live in a world where there are black boys sitting in the principal’s office. And we don’t have to. We can bring about a different world. I remind myself that it is not so crazy to build a world where Tamir would have been free.