Let me put you on real quick to a running inside joke here at the VIBE offices. I, Shenequa Golding, have been unofficially dubbed the “Militant Editor.”
Before we go any further, my title has little to do with my stereotypical “black girl from around the way” name, and more to do with my radical ideas surrounding race, white supremacy, systemic racism and the betterment of black people. Malcolm is my hero. Assata is welcomed ’round these parts and I’d gladly take A Different World over Seinfeld any day (still don’t understand why folks dig the show so much).
If a black man or woman gets killed by police, I’m covering it. I remember the dates of Eric Garner, Fred Hampton, Medgar Evars Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin’s deaths better than the anniversary of some of hip-hop’s most respected albums, but shhh, I work for VIBE, don’t tell [Editor-in-Chief], Datwon.
But what the VIBE staff doesn’t know is a small part of me has given up hope and become desensitized to the bloodshed of my people and the countless not guilty verdicts being announced, given an indictment is even handed down.
I didn’t grow up in a “conscious” home. Back on Oceania Street in Queens, my 16-year-old Jamaican momma and the matriarchs who raised me only instilled a wicked work ethic, so as to save me from their pitfalls, with hopes that, maybe one day, I would be smart enough to not lay with a man who wouldn’t care for his child.
Try nuh bring nuh pickney dem a mi yard. Jamaican patois for, “Don’t you dare come home pregnant.”
Mommy used to pick me up from school on Mondays—those were the best—and helped with my homework when she didn’t work late. But she didn’t teach me about black Wall Street, Denmark Vesey or sat me down to listen to Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech. My foray into the dismantling of the white power structure began when I attended Hampton University. It was there I learned about the ills my people endured and how ill we really are.
The chipping away at my hope, however, started in 2006 when I learned Sean Bell took 50 shots to the chest the morning of his wedding and the officers involved were found innocent of their crimes. It stung. It stung real bad, but I shook it off, threw my fist back in the air, and kept marching.
With each death of an unarmed black man and woman, I lowered my fist, quieted my chant and slowed down my march. I was in New York’s Penn Station when George Zimmerman was found not guilty for killing Trayvon Martin. I cried. I cried and gasped for air like my own little brother was the recipient of yet another miscarriage of justice. A blonde haired woman, unaware of the verdict, asked if I was okay. I told her no. She asked why.
“George Zimmerman was found not guilty.” I said in between tears. “This guy killed a kid and was found not guilty!”
She was shocked, not by the verdict but that I was crying. She turned her back to me and walked away. I don’t fault her. What could she have done to console me?
After Zimmerman’s verdict, I haven’t cried at the death of any other black man or woman since, and I’m more afraid of that then getting pulled over by a white police officer in the dead of night.
If I don’t feel anything, have I given up? I’ve accepted the social and racial climate and subconsciously agreed to the killings taking place in America. If Freddie Gray’s death or John Crawford’s unjustified killing in an Ohio Walmart doesn’t even prompt me to react, I’ve lost a lot more than I can articulate.
But below that, a small part of me has allowed the belief that black lives don’t matter to seep in and take root. Somewhere inside Shenequa, she has come to accept that being covered in black skin means your life will not merit the same protection, respect and opportunity of my white counterparts, and although it’s not okay, it is what it is. If I can Kanye shoulder shrug at this on-going extermination taking place, how numb have I become?
This is a controversial thought, and I’m sure a clapback will be FedEx’d overnight to my mentions, but please, just hear me out: I grow weary when I hear nine black people peacefully congregated in their church to study their Bible only to be gunned down by the devil they unknowingly let in. That wound becomes even more infected when reports indicate police bought Burger King for Emanuel AME Church shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, because he was hungry upon capture. It may be police protocol, but Roof would’ve very well sufficed with crackers and his own saliva.
The race war Roof tried to jump start has been underway for sometime, and the more our black men and women are killed, the harder it is to believe things will change.
I’m trying to hold onto the sadness you’re supposed to feel. The hurt. The anguish. The normal human emotions that come when injustice takes places, but they’re slowly slipping away. We’ve become so accustomed to the killings, we now find reason to “rejoice” when an autopsy report indicates homicide was the cause of death. We romanticize that the hands of justice may work in our favor when our deaths are acknowledged to not have been caused by our hands. Yet time and time again, we realize it doesn’t mean sh*t because they continue to get away with it.
Maybe this “Militant Editor” will begin to feel something again if we start to shoot back.
But then I’d be wrong, right?