The senseless killing of young Trayvon Martin has reminded conscious Black men everywhere in this country of their tenuous existence. The “freedom” of George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s killer, reminds us of the imbalance of justice and the degree to which the “law” is slow to recognize our humanity. We can empathize with Trayvon because we know on any given day our ticket could be punched by someone who simply decides we are not worthy of living. It is a reality we carry like our driver’s license and a burden that wears on us in ways that others can’t imagine. The red bull’s eye on our back is not an ad for Target but a real target that we wear no matter what we are wearing; hoodie or suit.
The thought of leaving this earth in some random act of violence is never far from consideration for Black men. We all know it’s a possibility; we just try not to think about it while all the while the thought is ever present. Will it be at the hand of some police officer who feels threatened simply because we raise our hand to reach for our license when asked? Will it be at the hands of a mob like young Derrion Albert in Chicago who was beat senseless near his school? Maybe we will be taken out by some brother who is a gang banger who despises us for being in a neighborhood he declares as his turf but one in which he has no reasonable claim to ownership or residence? Perhaps we will meet up with the likes of a George Zimmerman who decides we simply don’t belong and don’t deserve to live?
Black men don’t like to talk about it; some are just in denial. It is an awful existence, a horrible way of living and a contributor to stress, hypertension, cardiac arrest and sadly, suicide. There is no place to hide, no safe space. You can live in the ‘hood or the suburban cul-de-sac, but you can’t escape the reality of being a Black man in America. Every day you are reminded of society’s disregard for your existence; the disrespect in the office, the wandering eyes upon your every movement in the department store, the police cruiser that suddenly appears in your rear view mirror. From sun up to sundown, life is a minefield for Black men.
We are hardly 3/5ths; we have been reduced to “less thans” who greet each new day thankful for the day before, apprehensive about the day ahead, and conditioned not to think too far in the future. From an early age our joy is robbed and youth becomes preoccupied by survival and adult lives become tainted by the baggage we carry from the treacherous journey to manhood. We are only celebrated if we score athletically, criminally or sexually; while our victory over the routine drudgeries of life are hardly noticed as we remain invisible unless our bodies lay prone, outlined by chalk.
Black men are worn down like the needle on an old turntable. We are simply weighed down by the need to justify our existence. It is tiring wearing the mask as those around you discount you, insult you and diminish you, and you are expected to accept it all with a smile. Dare we object because we are then the “angry Black man” and deemed a threat in school, the office and the community. We can’t do crazy but crazy is visited upon us every day. We leave the house each morning, with the survival rules firmly embedded in our conscience and on the lookout for any situation that might draw unwanted attention and result in possible harm to us. Life for us is like a violent video game.
Rather than succumb to this madness I have decided to live free, by rules that validate my worth and unconcerned with the approval of a world that has so little regard for me. So, if they should shoot me know that I did not “surrender.” If they shoot me in the back, know that I was not running, but walking away. If they shoot me in the chest, know that I was not the aggressor, just standing my ground. If they shoot me in the head, know that I was declaring my right to exist. If I have to die by violent means, I choose to die free. I choose to leave this earth unapologetic for my Blackness and my manhood. I have every right to exist as any other human being and I will not let man rob me of the humanity my God gifted me. If my day should come, and I must leave as Trayvon did, as Medgar and Malcolm did and Martin, it will be with a straight back and clear eyes, and with the knowledge that my life meant something.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.