cries of anguish

If I told you that taking care of my disabled infant-toddler-teen sometimes feels impossible— emotionally, physically, psychologically—you'd probably take my word for it.

If I told you I know more about living with epilepsy than my son's neurologists—the drugs' heinous side effects, the manic ramp-ups to the seizures, the awful fits themselves, the fallout from them, the cumulative stress—you might concede.

If I told you there are moments when I want to punch a wall, nights when I scream my head off in sleep-deprived frustration, mornings when I want to run away from it all—the dirty diapers, the managing of medicines, my relative confinement, the traipsing around behind my wobbly son in mindless circles all day long, the blocking of his efforts to stare at the sun and smack me in the face and bite everything in sight and drool on every surface in the house—you wouldn't doubt me.

If I told you I have little to no time or space or freedom to do the things I want to do and that sometimes I resent my son, my husband, my life circumstance, you'd take me seriously.

If I told you that I live with the fear that my son will die in his sleep after an epileptic attack, you wouldn't deny me that anxiety.

If I told you that my son's future seems bleak, and that I worry if he outlives us that others might mistreat him and that no one else will love him when he's no longer cute and cuddly, you'd feel me.

If I told you we've been gawked at, scorned, cheated, avoided, ridiculed and neglected, though that might come as a surprise, you'd believe me.

If I told you all of these things on a regular basis and for years, even if I've never met you, I've no doubt you'd likely show me love and compassion and maybe even ask if there were something you could do to make things better.

And hopefully, few if any of you would respond to my cries of anguish by telling me I'm imagining things or blowing them out of proportion, that I'm too serious, too sensitive, playing the victim, that I need to get over it, or that our situation doesn't matter nor does it warrant telling.

With this in mind, it never ceases to amaze me that when African Americans decry racism, police brutality, oppression and injustice, there are still those who respond with deflection, distraction, condemnation, disparagement and denial. Even in the face of mounting cell phone videos showing innocent Black men, women and children getting harassed, brutalized and killed by White cops and civilians, there are those who will claim that the victims are playing the "race card," must somehow be deserving of their mistreatment or demise, or that the offenses are anomalies.

Despite frequent anguished pleas, those steeped in racial bias or animus—whether consciously or not—condemn the ways in which Black people peacefully protest their oppression and the violence waged against them whether it be by taking a knee, taking the stage, taking the mic or taking to the streets. Others cling to ignorant and dismissive platitudes like, "All lives matter," a tone-deaf and hurtful retort to the more urgent maxim, "Black lives matter," even going so far as to create, share and repeat tasteless memes while innocent Black men, women and children are murdered with appalling frequency.

Despite cries for equality and reams of evidence supporting its disparity, there are still those who perpetuate rugged-individualist and bootstrap theories. They doubt, deny and turn a blind eye to the grim and profound effects of systemic racism, discrimination, and the maligning and marginalization of Black people. As a result of such offenses, African Americans are at higher risk of living in substandard housing, in food deserts, in cities with underfunded and crumbling schools and drinking water tainted with lead. And due to the fact that institutional racism exists at every level of government policy—education, housing, lending, healthcare, employment, criminal justice—African Americans are at disproportionately higher risk than White people of suffering from coronavirus and other diseases, infant and maternal mortality, police violence, arrest and incarceration.

The hardships raising my severely disabled son have never been questioned, even though most who claim to understand them cannot truly empathize. But somehow, the decades- and centuries-long protests by African Americans against injustices, fear and risk of bodily harm have historically—at least until more recently—gone unheard. Too many people remain entrenched in their denial of benefits they enjoy because of having white skin—a reality that in no way whatsoever discounts hard work and ingenuity and is nothing to be ashamed of. Perhaps fear or pride gets in the way of conceding that success isn't ever achieved in a vacuum. Maybe, like me, whiteness might have helped you get that decent education, that interview, that job, that apartment, that loan, that benefit of the doubt, that second chance. Maybe, like me, whiteness helped you skirt defeat, suspicion, catastrophe. And maybe—probably—whiteness helped you avoid the risk of getting stopped, questioned, arrested, your neck crushed under some cop's knee.

Protesting the killing of George Floyd, outside Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. Photo, Yunghi Kim/Contact Press Images

1 comment:

  1. I'll echo you here. All of the above. Beautiful and powerful post. I love you so much, sister.