If you’ve been my internet friend, or rather, if you are STILL my internet friend, you may have noticed an extreme change in my online personality? I was more angry, more volatile, and maybe even a little spooky?
Do you have any idea why?
That’s my frustration.
But it’s also not your fault.
This past week in Omaha has been awful. From protests to riots. I just haven’t been able to manage the stress.
Not because I disagree with any of the sentiment mind you. It’s because it triggered some underlying PTSD.
I kept having familiar feelings. A feeling as if I’ve already done this before. A feeling that felt almost prophetic?
Or was it that I just grew up in a redlined zone as a youth and what I am feeling now was an everyday reality? Sometimes you don’t realize an experience was traumatic until you have those familiar feelings and begin to go into fight or flight.
My earliest memory is that my dad was beat up by a cop. I don’t know the whole story. I just know an arrest warrant was out for my uncle and my dad just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The cop broke his nose and got away with it.
I don’t have all the details, and I don’t want them. I’ve always hated the idea that someone hurt my dad and that there was no justice. To know that someone I love was hurt by someone that was supposed to protect us warped my sense of safety and understanding.
Growing up in South Omaha, the idea of being policed was ingrained into my memory. From having to have the right stickers, on the right license plate. From having to not make a move when the police come to your car. From seeing red and blue lights drive through the park, this feeling of forced obedience crushed my soul. How could I step out of line? I saw what they did to the Black people across the street. I saw poverty that drove people mad. I was told to be grateful that I wasn’t them, but I was still made to look so that I didn’t think it couldn’t happen to me.
I always knew that there was a thin blue line keeping me from danger. That thin blue line being the person behind the badge, who at a moment’s notice could decide to take any action they desired, and the ability to know that they’d get away with it.
My relationship to the black community has always been adjacent. Growing up near subsidized housing clouded my worldview. Black people lived in the projects, and poor white people lived across the street, but the poor people will never be poor enough to get free housing, and the black people will never have enough money to NOT. A perfect storm of chaos.
As a child, I can remember landlords telling us to just move into the projects and knowing that free option wasn’t available made me mad.
It took me almost 30 years to realize my anger was just and that it is righteous and that I should push that anger upward at the systems that continue to perpetuate inequality.
As I saw the frenzy of red and blue lights on Dodge and as the police marched forward I felt the familiar feelings I had as a youth. My biggest fear as a kid was that the world was going to end. Seeing SWAT teams march my street against protestors who had nothing more than water bottles and signs made my heart sink.
Apocalypse had arrived.
During the plague, the people sworn to protect us didn’t mobilize to help their community. They mobilized to beat us for complaining.
If the imbalance of force between the police and protestors doesn’t bother you, is it because you think the protestors deserve it? Is it because you think that if they’re complaining, or looting, or rioting, it’s because they just weren’t prepared enough to take care of themselves?
And why do you think you put up with it in the first place?
Being white keeps us blind to the realities of the world. It allows us to buy into a structure that protects us from the reality of the world.
If you are Black you do not get to willingly join the group with the most advantage. You are forced to be seen as less. You are forced to be the example of the worst parts of this society. If you are Black, your pain, your anguish, your mania, your sadness, your horror…
Your PTSD induced manic facebook ranting… is because you just haven’t taken the proper care for yourself.
But, how can you take care of yourself when you do not have the resources to do so?
I’ve had friends reach out to comfort me or to scold me for making this about me. What you need to know is that it is about me. It’s about all of us. If we cannot see how forces of oppression work. If we cannot see how a young black man was murdered by a man who has known ties to white supremacy. Who even had a business that one could infer had racist connotations hidden in hit’s logo….
Maybe you are the blind ones?
If your white guilt isn’t white anger. It’s because you still don’t get it. Guilt implies that you feel bad that something happened. Anger is the push to fight back.
While I have a fear for where we are. I am so very hopeful. It’s important for us to continue to work with love. Work with people where they are at. Be an open ear! Don’t be afraid to push back, even a little, to help people understand why it’s important to be anti-racist.
But know the work has to be on all of us. Some of us have been fighting this battle for a long time. Some of us are angry and maybe don’t have the time to keep rehashing our nightmares to help you understand why you need to care.
So, if you were worried about me. Know I am doing better. I am taking the steps I have to take care of myself. Because I recognize my privilege. I have the resources I need to stop and calm down.
Now, keep that in mind for when you finally snap. For when you finally realize that people aren’t listening to what you’re saying, but they’re just listening to how you say it.
Am I crazy? Or are you not yet?