I am suffering from Black-American Traumatic Stress Disorder. No, I didn’t mean Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You can’t label an event “post” when it is continually happening. BTSD is not a diagnosable disorder, meaning it has not been validated by any governing body of psychological medical conditions. While I did make it up, this is me searching for a label to describe how I feel with every triggering reminder that Black people are still oppressed in this country.
There have been several reminders in the last two weeks: the new voter laws in Georgia, and the Representative arrested for knocking on the door while those disgraceful laws were being signed into effect, just to name a couple. The latest trigger that has every nerve ending in my body on high alert, my shoulders tight, my breathing labored, my inexplicable outbursts of tears, and my soul weary… the trial of Derek Chauvin has begun. After a state-sanctioned public lynching, we are left to deal with the defense team’s destruction of George Floyd’s character and the rationalization of his demise. Though I’ve never seen the video, and I never will, I am no less impacted by what Chauvin did on May 25, 2020. The photos of Chauvin, smirking, hands-in-pockets, bearing his full weight on George Floyd’s neck have been enough to confirm for me that he not only felt justified in killing a handcuffed, unarmed “suspect,” but that he also felt he would suffer no consequences for doing so. He was emboldened by the ethos of this country that has repeatedly confirmed there is no price that will be paid for the bloodshed of its melanated citizens at the hands of those charged with protecting and serving the same.
I’m not watching the trial either; however, I’m acutely aware of it. I am still affected by its reverberations in the atmosphere. I have moments of sheer despair that leave me feeling helpless. I have rage so fiery the flesh on my face feels like molten lava. Between those two extremes resides numbness. It’s a numbness required to function daily while working with and for people who are willfully oblivious to what’s happening. It’s a numbness required to swallow the fact that more than likely Chauvin will receive little more than a slap on the wrist for his transgressions; the “system’s” unwillingness to sacrifice one of their own once again on full display. I paste a smile on my face and pretend to be okay, faintly hearing the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear The Masks.” I stifle those moments when I want to scream and ask, “How can you hate us this much?”
Today, I learned of a young girl who witnessed Chauvin’s offense. This is my first time being aware of her existence. She was simply traveling with her older cousin to the corner store and now her life will forever be stained by the power of hate. She had to recount the horror of what she’d experienced on the stand in the hopes that George Floyd might receive justice. Knowing that little sis had to watch this public servant extinguish Floyd’s light and then publicly relive it has been too much for me. I thought about my nieces and my goddaughters and it was just too much. I often soothe myself with meditation, food, substances, or people that make me feel good on days when I struggle to cope. Today, I am unsoothable. I’m struggling to focus long enough to chant my way through it. There is no ice cream vendor with a flavor that overpowers the bitterness of nine-year-old innocence lost. There is no substance or person that can ease this anger just beneath the misleading calm on my face.
I have no solutions. I can’t say why I wrote this other than it being an attempt to momentarily unburden myself. I leave you with the fact that you are not alone in your feelings. While you may not identify with mine, there are others who have the same thoughts and feelings as you. Your pain does not exist in a vacuum. I see you brothers and sisters. I feel you. Take care of yourselves and your mental health as best you can. We will continue to fight this corrupt system. We will birth change with our voices.