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Contained Rage

I appreciate the significance of storytelling from my family's elders especially since many of them are no longer here. The stories that impacted me the most were chocked with family history. Those stories have given me a sense of identity, power, and pride. They planted seeds that left me with something to think about no matter how bizarre some of them were.

My grandmother shared a story about an encounter her mother had in Alabama during the Jim Crow era. My great-grandmother had to shop for some items and when she was done she approached the attendant to pay. My great-grandmother had beautiful hands. She kept her fingernails well-manicured, perfectly shaped, colored with her signature red nail polish. There were 2 white women behind the counter. The woman working the cash register, snarled sarcastically to the other woman, "well look at this nigger's hands, have you ever seen a nigger with pretty hands?" My great-grandmother didn't respond. She was seething at the disrespect. She wanted to cuss the lady out and punch her in the face but she knew that she couldn't without retribution. She had to contain her rage. As a black woman in the Jim Crow south, she wasn't protected, and responding the way she wanted could mean danger or even death. I listened to my grandmother tell this story as a kid of the '80s. I wasn't able to grasp the complexity of the Jim Crow era and why my great-grandmother didn't knock that lady's head off for calling her a "nigger". I knew my great-grandmother to be the "boss" of our family; direct, strong, respected, firm, yet nurturing. She was the keeper of our guard. She slept with a rifle by the side of her bed. She didn't take anybody's shit.

As I matured, I learned that to survive that situation and others, there was a time to fight and a time to contain the rage. My family taught us to choose the battles we had a chance of winning. These experiences weren't isolated. Black people have been trying to overcome the roadblocks of racism, institutional and systemic oppression for centuries. It can be both blatant and covert. The ramifications have been emotional, physical, financial, and psychological trauma to our community. That pain is real. However, each generation grows more resistant to all forms of oppression. In the past year, we've seen diverse groups of people come together to protest the police killings of black men and women.

The same week that Derek Chavin was convicted for the murder of George Floyd, Daunte Wright and Ma'Khia Bryant were also killed by law enforcement. So we continue to amplify our tired voices of rage. As a people, we're exhausted but giving up on reimagining what policing can be, fighting for justice and equality is simply not an option. I will continue to use my voice to express the rage I've carried to be a catalyst for change. I owe it to myself and my ancestors to do my part. They did theirs.

The same spirit of white supremacy the attendant inflicted toward my great-grandmother was witnessed recently when Army Sergeant Jonathan Pentland confronted a young black man he accused of being in the wrong neighborhood. U.S Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario was pulled over for a traffic stop while wearing his military uniform. He was non-confrontational, with his arms up, he was disrespected and pepper-sprayed. This insidious belief that black people aren't worthy or deserving of dignity, equity, justice, or equal protection under the law is embedded in the fabric of all things America and we're paying for it with our lives disproportionately. I believe this is the time for reconning in America.

These recurring events have been traumatic, how are you taking care of yourself emotionally? I'd like to hear about it.


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