On May 24th, I turned 50.
While it was a milestone birthday, it wasn’t really all that big a deal. It felt like 30 with a few extra gray hairs. I still ran around and did things; saw concerts, hung out until the wee hours, all the stuff I did when I was younger.
I’ve been 50 for eight months. I’ve largely enjoyed it.
But I’ve never felt it.
That is, until about 2p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
When the alert went off from the ABC News app on my phone informing me that a Grand Jury in New York City had decided not to indict police officer Daniel Panteleo for the death of Eric Garner, that all changed.
I felt old.
And I felt tired.
I’ve kind of had enough of the reality show version of “How To Get Away With Murder” that seems to have become the relationship between Black men and police.
It was bad enough when Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis got killed by civilians and the police officer who shot Oscar Grant got little more than a slap on the wrist for shooting him.
But in the case of Garner, who was one of five unarmed Black men killed by police in the month of August, a list that included Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there was a video that not only showed what happened, but showed everyone because it went viral.
(Can we talk about how the guy who shot that video, Ramsey Orta, is on his way to jail? Let me get this straight: You can’t get an indictment for PUTTING someone in a chokehold, but you can get an indictment for someone FILMING you putting someone in a chokehold? Okay…)
The fatigue actually started after spending all night last Monday watching St. Louis County District Attorney Robert McCullough blame social media and the 24-hour news cycle for why he couldn’t get an indictment of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, and the ensuing protest, burning and looting that it caused,
It continued when I read about the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland while holding a toy gun, being mistaken for a grownup, and coming across a trigger-happy cop who shows that the Cleveland Police Department might want to tighten up its hiring procedures.
Spending time on social media with people who think me so stupid that there’s no way I can focus on obtaining justice and improvement on two simultaneous tracks, meaning that they don’t think that I can concentrate on so-called Black on Black crime while demanding that the police stop shooting my unarmed loved ones, was another source of pounding that my psyche was growing weary of.
By the time I added the fact that we never discuss White on White crime or even acknowledge that it exists by talking about the intra-racial nature or crime, that “thug” has become the new “nigger” and the barrage of non-fact connected bullshit that comes from people intent on excusing the murders of Black men, especially from Black men like NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and Dr. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon and future Republican presidential candidate that I’m convinced is operating on himself, I felt like I was in my late, late 40s.
When the Garner decision was announced, I sat at my desk and had trouble keeping my head from just falling down. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I felt weighed down.
I felt every minute of 50.
As I stared at the New York Times story on my computer, I could feel myself tearing up. Not in a sad way. Or a happy or angry way.
In a weary way.
Because if you ask anyone who is Black people, or loves Black people, we’re tired.
We’re tired of seeing our loved ones shot.
We’re tired of burying our loved ones after they’ve been shot.
We’re tired of hearing that our loved ones somehow deserve to have been shot, even if they’re doing totally normal things like going to the store for candy, walking home with a friend, listening to music at a gas station, or just standing around.
We’re tired of hearing the words “thug”, “demon”, “Hulk” and “scumbag” being thrown at our loved ones, especially if they’re on the end of the gun where the bullets are coming from.
We’re tired of the dehumanization that those buzzwords imply.
in other words, we’re tired of THIS.
This. Shit. Here.
This “We can kill you with impunity and no one, especially the system that we’ve spent years telling you to trust despite the fact that it hasn’t done right by you yet, is going to stop us from doing it,” shit.
Around the country, folks took to the streets after the Garner decision was announced. Some of them, like the folks here in Philadelphia that had a Die-In at our 30th Street Station, had planned these demonstrations to protest the Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson. They marched, blocked highways (the Schuylkill Expressway was a little more clogged than usual near the 30th Street on-ramp) and disrupted some Christmas Tree lightings, which led to some clutched pearls and complaints of “wrong place, wrong time”.
I’m sorry for your inconvenience. But considering that what folks were protesting was the fact that there are several families that will have one less seat at the Christmas dinner table due to losing a loved one to a police bullet…or a chokehold…you’re gonna have to forgive me for having run out of damns to give.
Once upon a time, I’d have been right out there with the protestors. And maybe I will be again soon.
But right now, my 50-year-old self is too tired to pick up a sign, walk a block, or shout “No justice, no peace”.
Right now, I want to grab all of my male relatives, my Significant Other, and every other Black man , heck, man of color, who has a place in my heart and round them up, put them in a very large room, large enough to do everything they need to do with their lives, and lock the door behind me because if nothing else, I know they’re not safe.
I want to sit down with a cup of hot tea with a shot of brandy in it.
But mostly, I want to cry.
That’s all I really have the energy to do.