In 2014 following the guilty verdict of Michael Dunn in the murder of Jordan Davis, I wrote the essay “There is no white boogeyman.” In it, I chided Black intellectuals on their paranoia:
“Writers are now expressing the kind of trepidation and angst that would have us believe that Black children are not safe because a White man is lurking around every corner, waiting to shoot down a young man minding his own business.”
Of course, White people loved it. It was the No. 1 story on CNN that day with 10 times the typical number of comments. Still, it did not go over well with my people.
Ta-Nehisi Coates unfriended me. Gene Demby called me a troll then blocked me on Twitter. (I’ve since been unblocked.) My mother hung up the phone in my face during a prickly exchange on the issue.
While it was odd to find myself opposing the views of Coates, Demby and others I admire, I couldn’t will myself to believe the murders of Davis and Trayvon Martin were anything other than very tragic outliers.
But that was before Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Walter L. Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Samuel Dubose, Christian Taylor, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Now, I must remove the scales from my eyes and accept that bad White men will kill a Black man, woman, or child just as easy as look at any of them while good White men and women (and apathetic Black ones) say and do nothing.
This realization is problematic for me. I’m a reasoned, open-minded person who believes in giving people the benefit of the doubt. So after all my good-will is expended, and I’m forced to conclude a person or institution means me no good, ill even, I get mad. I’m upset because I am by nature jovial and optimistic. Hate quiets my joie de vivre.
The thing is I don’t stay mad for long.
Anger is a gateway emotion. Behind it, I find my true feelings — disappointment, sadness, fear, helplessness, and so on. I never sit on my feelings for long. I act. I’ve got to do something, even when I don’t really want to as when I broke up with my love and sued a company I really liked.
Today it means doubling down on efforts to end police brutality and inequitable gun laws in this country. I’ll be following the lead of Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, who has campaigned tirelessly for gun reform since the death of her son.
Please join us.