It Feels Like Being on Death Row

Photo by Felton Davis | CC BY 2.0

After hearing about the two Sacramento police officers who tragically shot and killed 22-year-old unarmed Black male Stephon Clark because they thought that he had a gun when in fact he had a cell phone, I was seized yet again by that profoundly uncomfortable feeling of trying to make sense of what it means to be a Black male in contemporary white America, an America that has always spelled out in unambiguous and brutal terms that Black bodies are disposable, especially when compared to white bodies, white life.  There was that profound sense of grieving yet again for a Black body killed by the state or proxies of the state. There was that sudden flood of outrage and deep melancholia as I was inundated with recent memories. After hearing the 911 audio tape of the killing of unarmed 17-year-old Black male Trayvon Martin, I wept. After hearing the “I can’t breathe” cries of 42-year-old Black male Eric Garner, who eventually died of what the coroner described as a chokehold from a white police officer, my body felt constricted. His cries were existential entreaties that fell on opaque ears and hearts. After the racial profiling of 28-year-old Sandra Bland and the subsequent treatment of her (having been thrown to the ground) by a white police officer as if she was a “criminal,” I felt as if I should have been there to show her the respect and love that she deserved. I feel that familiar anger that arises from knowing that Black…

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