When Trayvon Martin was killed for walking down the street, my senses became heightened. To be honest, I did not grieve like he was my brother or son. I heard that there were thousands of stories like his, some less tragic, some just as fatal. Most of those stories were untold, unrecorded, unheralded, or misremembered.
When Mike Brown died, I saw a child laying in the street. This time, my friends were his friends. He wasn’t my brother or son, but I could imagine him being one. I didn’t grieve, but I did become angry.
When Eric Garner died, I tried to go into the streets, but I felt like a fraud.
When Sandra Bland died, I wondered if I had lost a friend. The anger in her voice was so familiar. I had heard it so many times, almost the same words, a shocking similarity in tone. She described the system to its face as she narrated the prelude to her own unjust demise. Now you’re taking me out of the car. Now you’re abusing me. This is the part of the video where it becomes clear that you have never believed that I’m human. When we started wondering, “What happened to Sandra Bland?” I did not move on, because I knew that I could no longer trust the “official account,” which never seems to account for what the officials did. All of the Sandras I know would never have wanted me to move on.
In the face and wake of violence, a false hope kept me active. The false hope told me that It was impossible for us to ignore the truth much longer.
Today I’m grieving for the families of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott. Jewish families stand for the “mourner’s kaddish” after a death, or on the anniversary of one. When I was a child, my rabbi, from the reform tradition, made sure everyone stood for the mourners’ kaddish, breaking with more conservative traditions. She believed there’s always someone for whom not enough people are mourning.
As I grieve for the Crutcher and Scott families, I’m also mourning the loss of my false hope. I am letting go of the idea that most of my people can be counted on to care because of demands alone. Speaking louder reaches just a few more people, and only those who are ready to hear. I’m afraid that most people of my own race, White people, are never going to be ready to hear. For four hundred years they have been taught, incorrectly, to believe that their own self-interest depends on not hearing.
When Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died, for the first time I grieved like they were family. I sat at my kitchen table without moving for a half a day. I wept for hours, on the floor. I didn’t sleep for four days. I was manic. I begged my people to do something. To take action. To show solidarity.
Now that Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott are dead, I still grieve for them like they are family. Today, I’m also letting go of the false hope that my people will do anything before they grieve. So all I’m asking you to do today is to grieve with me.