Why Racism Feels the Way It Does
The killings of innocent Black men and women sparked the blaze, but it was millions of lifetimes of microaggressions that fanned the flames
I am exhausted. So, likely, are you. So is almost every Black American. But it’s not just the weariness, bone-deep, that accumulates over a life of being Black in America. What we’ve been feeling since May 25 is PTSD, the fallout from seeing George Floyd’s life drain from his body, Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
While the act was barbaric enough, it was Chauvin’s violent stare that pierced the soul of every Black person who had steeled themselves to watch yet another police killing. It was a look of pure disdain, all his hatred of Blackness concentrated and visible in his eyes — a hate that we have always known as Black Americans, but until recently has been shrouded by a false veil of acceptance and progress.
To look at the popular narrative, you’d think the world was falling over itself in the quest for racial equity. Hip-hop has long been the most consumed and highest-earning genre of music. C-suites have swelled with an influx of Chief Diversity Officers, professional industries host inclusion summits. Forbes chronicles a new class of Black billionaires; White kids dress as Black superheroes for Halloween.
I would have no witnesses, no cell phone footage, should the next Amy Cooper yell to the police the seven words feared by every Black man in America: ‘there is an African American man….’ The mental dance is exhausting.
And then, Derek Chauvin’s stare over the body of George Floyd strips it all away, instantly reminding us that we are still Black in the country of the antebellum and Jim Crow eras. It takes us back to every slight and sling that we have experienced in our lives at the hands of those who assume authority over us, formal or otherwise.
The energy you feel from these uprisings — the fires you see blazing, the…