I'll start slowly, right here, now. I've learned to live with it but never to accept it. A lifelong grieving period, one that shakes you out of a quiet moment chopping carrots, tugs you out of a slow walk to meet a friend, pummels you to tears in the moments before sleep finds you. The periods between grieving get longer but the grieving endures because how do you accept injustice -- the murder of a loved one by the hands of those you trusted to protect them?
To protect them: they the vulnerable, the broken, the forgotten. This is where my fury begins.
Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the day my cousin, Mark, 25 years old and just 19 days short of his 26th birthday, was beaten to his death by a group of police officers in my hometown in broad daylight, in the heart of downtown, right in front of the building of a major newspaper. There were witnesses, I gather even journalists, but nobody had their weapons of video in their phones, they could only watch in horror as Mark was pulled from his car, beaten and kicked, face to the ground, until his body went limp. Until he died at the soles of their boots.
The news reporters got out in time to broadcast Mark on a stretcher being put into the back of an ambulance, dead already.
They said he died of an overdose. I gather they never took a moment to look at his face and broken body when he was turned over on the stretcher.
He was white. He was an addict. He was known to police.
I gather they felt justified, right, angry, tired, powerful. In the moments or minutes when they collectively decided that Mark's life was less worthy of theirs, that he was not human, they became devoid of humanity themselves. Do they feel the same grief that I feel today? Do they remember the date as the day they took a young man's life because he was a nuisance or more trouble than they cared to deal with? Do they consider themselves righteous and justified? Do they even think about him? Us? Do they know who he left behind? Do they grieve his death like I do?
Is that what they'll call it? These days trailing off the deaths, the murders, of another two black men. Are we grieving or are we stunned silent, again? Every time it happens we collectively hope it will be the one that triggers real change and every time it happens again we are stunned into silence once again.
The videos. The ones that I can't bring myself to watch fully. I tried but had to stop for fear of having to collect wet and broken pieces of my heart from my lap as I curl over, again, in tears for a nation, for them, for their families and their communities. For us.
Each time I read another article, watch another news clip, hear another breaking news story of a black man or woman killed by the hands of the police the trauma of losing Mark resurfaces and I am gutted, again. Completely taken with grief not only for my loss but for the empathy I feel for their families, the people left behind with no answers, with no sense of truth or justice or comfort. They are left with a gaping hole of nothingness, helplessness and rage.
There now exists, in broad daylight, a broken system of empty and false power, of racism and prejudice.
Ten years ago I was there, I watched him die.
This is a human problem, there are no sides to take, everyone must come together. Police communities must rise up and speak out in solidarity with black communities. Politicians must take real steps to affecting change in policy and protocol. All communities have to set their anger and privilege aside and ask, 'What can we do?"
We all have to check in with our sense of privilege. If you do not live in fear, then why should they?
I have no answers, only love and hope that this insanity will stop and change will come. Black. Lives. Matter.
To the families and friends of Alton and Philando, I am so deeply sorry for your loss.