Yesterday, my partner and I planned a day trip. We were thinking about just getting away from it all after a tough week of violence against Black people and the racist mainstream news cycle to accompany it. We looked up some spots that were within an hour driving distance from Chicago, thinking this might be a good opportunity to let the kids experience something new. Then, we remembered that we are Black and we are unsafe everywhere.
In 1936, a Black man named Victor H. Green created “The Negro Traveler’s Green Book.” Back then, the tool was meant to help Black motorists and tourists safely travel the country during segregation. The book was published until 1964. And now, in 2016, my partner and I were wishing we had a Green Book to cross from Illinois into Wisconsin for a day trip.
This is the state of America right now. Many Black people are at heightened concern and cautiousness after the Fourth of July week resulted in numerous senseless killings of Black people at the hands of police, most of them unarmed or legally armed.
And this isn’t just an American problem. According to the Jamaica Gleaner, the Bahamas government has issued warnings to their citizens to be extremely careful when travelling to the United States after violence erupted at a peaceful protest in Dallas last week. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “Do not be confrontational and cooperate. If there is any issue please allow consular for the Bahamas to deal with the issues. Do not get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and avoid crowds.”
In a formal statement, the government also noted, “While it is prudent for travellers[sic] to conduct themselves in an orderly manner at all times, in light of recent episodes of involving police officers and young black men in the United States, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration wishes to advise the Bahamian Public to exercise due care and attention especially when travelling to particular cities in the United States.”
It is hard to be hopeful when we live in the very country that travelers abroad are being warned about. And, the warnings are justified.
I, too, sat and looked at my partner last night and worried that travelling outside of our usual checkpoints might increase our risk of becoming a permanently single-parent family in a split second. This could happen over a tail light, a loose cigarette, a jaywalking infraction, or maybe even a “wide nose.”
I looked at my two Black sons, the oldest looking much older than his eight years, and saw the murder of Tamir Rice. I can’t shake the images. Though I have stopped watching the videos, the ones I have seen and the graphics that slide down my various social media timelines are forever cemented in my mind.
These violent, unjust, and highly publicized lynchings of Black people are having the effect they intended to have so many years ago. They were always meant to pacify and control Black people. They were meant to stun us into submission, force us into silence, and strong-arm us into assimilation. They were meant to instill fear.
This is not just about numbers but numbers do matter. Quartz reports that, in 2015, more Black people were killed by police than those that were lynched at the height of Jim Crow. Ponder that. More Black people are being lynched by cops than those who were hung like strange fruit by White mobs and KKK militias during Jim Crow. 2016 isn’t looking to be any better than last year either.
This is one of the key issues with the “All Lives Matter” concept. When Black people are extralegally murdered, it isn’t just the lives of the deceased that are irrevocably changed. Those of us who live on often suffer from various forms of PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, anxiety, fear, paranoia, and the like. We are being terrorized (and I used that word intentionally).
It matters that Black people are being murdered. It matters that Black people are afraid to travel. It matters that, in 2016, families like mine are cautious of parks, grocery stores, playgrounds, street corners, highways, train stations, hotel lobbies, and virtually any public space. All of this matters.
Yes, Black lives matter. We are not fully living. And that matters.