After the fatal shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop by police last week, people were asking how I was feeling.
I had other black male friends who were writing that they felt afraid, writing that they felt sad, writing that they felt fed up, writing that they felt angry …
… and they were asking me how I was feeling.
I feel like going on.
Every one of my friends’ feelings is valid. The world is not the place that we were told it would be when we grew up. It is disappointing, disheartening and depressing.
My friends who are afraid have justifiable fear. In 2016 alone, black men have been shot by police at a rate nearly 300 percent more than we are of the population. We take our lives into our hands every time we step out the door. But I’m not afraid. It’s not because I’m braver or more courageous than my friends, it’s that I’m just flat out sick of being afraid anymore …
My friends who are sad have understandable sadness. How do you keep your spirits up knowing that the value of your life is not the same as those around you? How can you not be sad when your life expectancy is five years less than your white counterparts? Add in racial profiling, and the prospect of living to retirement age looks less likely. But I’m not sad, because I’m flat out tired of being sad …
My friends who are fed up have a right to be fed up. Every single time this issue is raised, the deniers and detractors come out the woodwork to say wait for more data, and we don’t know “all the facts” — then they want to parse the data to create new “facts,” and it all becomes too much — but I’m not fed up anymore, I’m sick and tired of being fed up …
My friends who are angry have many reasons to be angry. As black men, our lives are constantly under scrutiny, attack, persecution and denial. We are not valued except as targets, excuses and a focal point for blame. Anyone would be angry — but I’m not angry anymore, I’m sick and tired of being angry …
I’m sick and I’m tired. I’m sick and tired. But most of all, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
We hold these truths to be self-evident! That all men are created equal — yet we are killing and marginalizing one group at a rate tantamount to slow genocide all while denying it is happening …
(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!)
Does someone not understand the definition of “self?” Of “evident?” Or is it “equal?”
We talk about how great America is or making America great again, but we fail to look at the gaping hole in our national psyche that is focused on the denigration and disposal of black men. How are we to take that? How are we to reconcile the platitudes with the reality? How are we to take pride in a country that does not take pride in us? There is no greater conflict within me. How do I feel about my country, and how does my country feel about me?
And how do I feel? I feel like going on.
I feel this way because we are trapped in a loop of repetition, plying the same old excuses, the same old hollow words and the same old outrage.
I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. It is time to stop. It is time to step off this merry-go-round. It is time to look at the man in the mirror, America, and make a change.
We need an intervention.
We need to stop seeing black men as threats and targets and recognize us as humans, as friends, as brothers. We need to stop excusing the soft bigotry of the passive acceptance of systemic racism. We need to stop negating the very existence of us.
We need to change our laws, our system and our perspectives. We need to stand together and recognize the value of black men and the value of black lives. We need to affirm that they do, in fact, matter.
And we need to let nothing stand in our way.
It is right. It is just. And, Lord knows, it is time.
Jonathan Palmer is executive director of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul.