As I sat glued to the telecast of the Baltimore City riots, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of gloom and hopelessness, a hopelessness springing forth like a river bursting at its banks following the torrential downpour of persistent injustice. Injustice has historically plagued our communities, neighborhoods and families, and it seems that this injustice has found a home within our very souls.
It is becoming more and more apparent that we as a nation are facing a seemingly insurmountable racial divide, a divide born of the evil that is the continued killing of unarmed African Americans. This is an evil produced by the hands of the very officers charged with our protection.
What should be a community’s response? Should we peacefully coexist with the continued slaughter of our people? We are dying in cities across this country at a rate that should no longer be tolerable.
The travesties found in the murders of Black men such as Johnathan Ferrell, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and countless others shows a pattern of inhumanity projected onto Black males is evident.
Although it may be apparent to us, it seems invisible to many in the White community. A clear racial divide has been established between White and Black America, a divide magnifying the growing gap that these two differing Americas have on the racial injustice and slayings by local law enforcement.
An overwhelming percentage of Whites expresses a great deal of confidence in the ability of local police to treat Whites and Blacks equally. It would be a challenge to find many Blacks with the same sentiment. It is apparent we are living in two very different Americas.
We continuously hear that the murder of our people is justifiable. We are told over and over that if we were only to adhere to the commands of the police, no harm will befall us. I wonder what it is that Trayvon Martin did that was egregious enough to cause his murder.
I’m curious if Eric Garner’s misdemeanor offense of selling loose cigarettes on the street called for his demise. Did Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old guilty only of holding a toy gun, deserved to be shot to death by police merely two seconds after arriving on the scene?
The heart of the Black community is, and has long been, sick with the disease of racism and poverty. This is evident in an educational system that has long mis-educated our people, and unemployment rates that are almost double that of other communities. Our ancestors were forced to defer their hopes with an anticipated optimism that the following generations may see the light of freedom.
Even the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Bill was a stillborn freedom. The hope of our ancestors has yet to be realized. So many of the young people that we watch damaging property and vehicles in the Baltimore revolution — not riot — do not see themselves as part of this American dream. They do not see a positive future on their horizon.
I offer no canned solution in this writing. What I do hope to ignite is an awareness and consciousness amongst our communities, neighborhoods, families and individuals. As a Ph.D. student and licensed psychotherapist, I am reminded that healthy individuals are found within healthy families, and healthy families are found within healthy communities.
We cannot stand idly by hoping that the predominantly White police force will miraculously see the light and begin to treat our people in a more humane fashion. We can no longer be dependent upon others to do right by us. We must do right by ourselves and those who have agonized before us.
Let us stand together in solidarity with a consciousness that will no longer allow us to live under this long shadow of death and suffering. As the legendary poet Maya Angelou states in her legacy poem, “And still I rise. It is our given and unrelenting task to rise as a people. It is unquestionably within us.”
Corey Yeager, MA, LMFT, lives in Eagan.