The first time I was confronted with Black Fear was while watching Get Out. The movie is riveting, triggering, consuming, and all at once validating. Get Out allowed me the grace to be afraid in a society that claims Black Fear is analogous with Black ungratefulness and laziness. Get Out gently enabled me to reflect upon a truth that I always knew: in America I am afraid.
White society says that Black people face steep obstacles on the path towards success, not because of systematic oppression, but because of our own moral deficiency. As such, Black people are never allotted the space to relax into ourselves, to grieve for ourselves; we must always appear resilient, lest we be labeled a lazy Negro.
In truth, Black people in America have always faced the deepest and most unwavering oppression. From de jure slavery, lynchings, and segregation to de facto slavery (prison industrial complex), lynchings (police brutality and literal lynchings), and segregation (socioeconomic discrimination), American society was/is built upon the degradation of the Black body.
We graphically saw the reality for countless Black Americans today as we watched Philando Castile’s horrendous, insidious, heartless murder. He was shot 7 times with his girlfriend beside him and her four-year-old daughter in the backseat. Castile’s life did not matter. His partner’s life did not matter. And her daughter’s life did not matter. A few days prior to the release of the dashcam footage of this gruesome murder, we looked on in sorrow as his killer walked free, acquitted of all chargers.
To Mr. Castile and his family, I am sorry this world was not enough for you, I am sorry that your grieving was not recognized by the very institution that claims it is here to protect you. (We know this to be false, you can read more on the history of policing here)
From Philando Castile, to Tamir Rice, to Sandra Bland, to Eric Garner, to Laquan McDonald, to Charleena Lyles, I am left with one emotion, Fear.
And I boldly claim that Fear.
Fear that, as my mom consistently reminds me, every Black person is one mistaken identity away from being shot.
Fear that a broken tail light could lead to my body hanging in a cell.
Fear that class ascendancy will never protect me from anti-Blackness.
I am afraid. Not because I am lazy, incompetent, and inept, but because I am the opposite of all of those things and it is still not enough to be seen as fully human in a White Capitalist Supremacist Heteropatriachal Society.
Today, I am Black, Queer, and unashamedly afraid of being in my own body. To my fellow Black folks, it is okay to be afraid and express that Fear. I validate you, I stand with you, I cry with you, I grieve with you, and I am sorry this world is not enough to hold our beautiful souls.