Monday. An Instagram notification flashes across my screen and I flick it away.
Tuesday. I hop into my Jeep to do a quick errand and have to punch the radio off.
Wednesday. I go to see my mom but she's watching the news so I tiptoe out.
Thursday. I realize I'm holding my breath as if I'm standing barefoot on a cliff with the balls of my feet trembling in the air and a brisk wind tries to blow me to my death and my little brown heels are digging into the dirt to anchor me to an earlier era where America did not feel quite this unstable, this unable to discern wrong from right.
Friday. I'm on a call when the New York Times alert comes in about one of the cases: Not guilty.
Because Rittenhouse had killed two white men, I'd thought that the chances of a guilty verdict were higher. Maybe they were. Even so, the chances weren't high enough. A seventeen-now-eighteen year old who drove from Illinois to Wisconsin for a Black Lives Matter rally, who took his friend's AR-15 and marched down the street with it and killed two people and wounded another, was found not guilty today on all counts.
Is this what you want for America?
All week I couldn't bear to listen to the imminent plans to execute a wrongfully convicted Black man, while not listening to what the Rittenhouse judge had to say about the victims who are not to be called victims, about whether he would let the jury see the video more than once, while simultaneously not listening to reports of Ahmaud jogging, about the house-under-construction that he looked at along the way, about them shooting him in a manner that shattered his bones, about the defense lawyer who asked for black pastors to be barred from the courtroom because they are 'intimidating.' Standing on this cliff as I feel the ground threatening to fall away under me, the very rules about what makes the ground stable are in dispute. No, do not tell me anything until we know for certain, I say to the Instagram and the radio and the television, because with all of this wind whipping around me I cannot breathe.
My friend Farai Chideya tells a group of us, "I expected this verdict. That helps to an extent with my own journey through America's trauma, but does not prevent what I described to a friend as 'the disappointment that I was not pleasantly surprised.'"
By sheer coincidence, today Farai dropped her newest episode of her Our Body Politic podcast, featuring the Reverend Sharon Risher, who is a relative of a parishioner who was murdered by twenty-one-year-old white nationalist Dylann Roof at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, who, upon being apprehended after murdering nine Black people and hiding out for awhile, received a cheeseburger from the police because he was hungry. Rev. Risher was asked, "How does it feel to see these young people being infantilized in some ways when Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice, and so many other Black boys are viewed as threats, at even younger ages?" She responded, "I said you know what, this little Kyle Rittenhouse is trying to be another Dylan Roof. He didn't do what Dylann Roof did. But Dylann Roof gave all these little boys the gumption to wild out."
Rev. Risher continues, "Our white brothers and sisters have always had a way of trying to keep their folks innocent as long as they can.... They just see that Oh they, they made a mistake, they really didn't really want to do this. So, you see what kind of atmosphere or what kind of culture they grew up in to produce these little boys like this."
You are only in charge of yourself. So, how are you showing up?
If you want to donate money to racial justice initiatives, I recommend:
If you want to check out some books that might be helpful, try:
If you want to look white deniability about racism in the eye, try this amazing piece in The Nation:
In the coming week, many will celebrate Thanksgiving. Consider Thanksgiving as an opportunity to sit at your table and honor those indigenous people of long ago who were kind enough to take in strangers that would turn out to harm them. Celebrate with kith and kin and do your goldarn darnedest to proceed with grace and find common ground despite cultural and political differences. Try to show up with your fullest humanity. If you're inspired to improve how you behave with your family, check out these simple tips from Buddhability.
And while you're at it, heed the call of your ancestors who are telling you that we can be better than this. Heed the cry of your unborn great-great grandchild who will need us to have done better. Go. This is on us. Be the best you. Lead with love. And as ever, do tell me what came up for you as you read this.
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Cover Image Credit: Alessandro Biascioli