the ‘r’ word

it’s a clear, crisp Sunday morning that shines
a bit less through my window as i write this.
i write this the day after another botched
verdict in the state of Florida came to pass.
i write this the day after Michael Dunn got
time in prison for missing three other Black
teens in a car with his gun, but not for the
actual murder of Jordan Davis. it would have
been Jordan’s birthday today. i’m writing to
get this malaise alleviated, the nausea that
rose when the verdict came down. the nausea
that came as i watched Jordan’s parents do
the same thing Trayvon Martin’s parents did,
the same thing Renisha McBride’s parents did
and TOO MANY Black and Brown parents have done.
put on the noble face of respectability and
grace. it is what we have done in this country
since it was born. one imagines Crispus Attucks’
relatives would have done the same.

the face of ‘respectability’ in grief. it
makes respectability a slur. picture it –
millions of parents of color have to work
to ensure that their child or children are
seen as ‘respectable’ once they go out in
the word. they have to police their children.
POLICE THEIR CHILDREN. pay heed to that
phrase. and it starts from when you’re young.
how many of you reading this have had to
hear from your folks, ‘don’t be common’.
in those terms or others? and it’s all
because time and time again, our youth and
our folks have been murdered. seen as trifles
in the eyes of the system dedicated to
protect and serve white privilege. what
good is respectability when you have these
devilish individuals, out of fear systemically
and self-imposed, feeling as if they have
due course to take YOUR life on a whim?
you know, it used to make me extremely
pissed. because they’ll deflect it if you
challenge them head on. they’ll trot out
the ‘Black On Black crime’ deflection.
use codified language like ‘thug’ or ‘urban’
to hide what they really mean to say you
are. yet if there’s anything that’s been
more thuggish, it has been privileged,
race-based supremacy and domestic terrorism
supported by flawed laws. what good is
respectability when they’ve proven over
and over again that they DON’T RESPECT
YOU?

i write this, and ask these questions,
because i know all too well that there will
be generations after me that will ask the
same thing. i know that i have godchildren,
cousins, a nephew, future children i may
have that will look to me to decipher this.
to decipher the hieroglyphics of a hatred
that they can’t comprehend is directed at
them from the moment their first cries are
uttered. and yet, respectability will be
the fall back. it is an unwieldy and
sometimes unrealistic tool. but it is a
tool that we have to use to survive and
in due time, to live. one can easily
say’ to hell with it’. but the costs are
too great. especially now. let’s face it,
having a Black president has exacerbated
the issue. You may have your particular
thoughts about this president. But what
has happened to Trayvon, Renisha, Jordan
and countless others since 2008 is this:
there are those who do possess a fear of
a planet that doesn’t look like them or
what they hoped it would be. and these
executions of fear take place. we may dance
about race like a maypole at a picnic,
but it is an inherent American illness.
(and remember, Black folks used to be
lynched at picnics.) it’s an illness we
not only have to honestly confront, but
to pick apart to cure.

respectability. the ‘r’ word. it is not
a comfort when in spite of it, lives are
taken from us. yet you will hear it
tossed about again and again.

peace, and thanks for reading. until
the next time…

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