By Michele Rayner-Whitfield, Esq. • September 21, 2016•Issues, Other Issues
I don’t write many think pieces. Much of my writing is comprised of motions and memorandums of law. Even then, I would rather argue the law and the facts in front of a jury than to sit down and write. Yet, I am compelled write. I am compelled because on this day, once again like clockwork another black man, a human, has lost his life at the hands of over-zealous law enforcement. And I am numb.
Yet, the pain is just under the surface. As I sat today, mulling over Terrance Crutcher in my head, my dear friend texted me, “Repeat trauma numbs.” She is accurate. She summed up my double-consciousness of numbness and pain. Black death at the hands of the police has become so common-place that when I hear of it, in order to cope, I halfheartedly acknowledge it and tell my heart to “buck up. we can’t do this today. soldier through.” Isn’t this the plight of black folks? In the midst of trauma, we soldier on? I am numb so I can cope. I am numb so I can fight.
Repeat trauma numbs.
One of the definitions of numb is to “cause (a sensation) to be felt less intensely; deaden.” The synonym is to desensitize. I found that this what I have to do to cope and keep moving. Death is never supposed to feel normal or a part of a routine. Yet, somehow, that is what black lives and death is. It is a part of the normal course of business. It becomes a story I read about on Facebook while I am starting my day. I get mad for .5 seconds and realize that I cannot go there. Black lives are reduced to hash tags that are quickly forgotten and we move on to the “next”. Yet families and friends are left with the soul crushing loss at the hands folks who signed up to protect and serve.
Repeat trauma numbs.
Be clear, I am ashamed to admit that I am numb, at times. It is something that I have only shared with my closest friends. But I think at some level we all are. Numbness is a type of self-care. As an attorney, I work in the criminal justice system and see daily inequalities that often result in metaphoric (and sometimes actual) death of black lives. A system that is eager to “light black kids up” and extend grace to white youth. Black children are often characterized by their “charges” and their fate is sealed. On the other hand, white children are often framed by their home life and potential for greatness. If only given another chance.
I am past tired. I am numb and sometimes I question why I fight so hard. I am reminded of a speech Malcolm X gave. He said “…We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free humans in this society. “ I long for the day that our deaths are no longer a part of the normal course of business. While I choose to be numb for self-preservation, I am choosing to feel so I can go on and fight yet another day for freedom.