We Can’t Look Away

June 21, 2017

The cost is high. It’s much more than we can afford to pay. The same blood that birthed this nation is being spilled on display, day after day and month after month. And we simply cannot look away. I could talk about Philando Castile’s murder, and I could talk about many more stories just like his, but that would take forever. Some have gone public, while others have been swept away and forgotten by everyone except those left in a wide pool of trauma.

For me, the topic of caregiving can be discussed on so many levels. That’s what I find so engaging about it. It allows us to discuss aging, disease, disability, abuse, healing, children and love. But it also allows us to discuss the ugly things that cannot be framed in flowers for social media posts or sprinkled along a path to triumph. The topic of caregiving allows us to talk about what is happening to us inside and then to try to treat, heal or cure it. Without any of those options, we die. Whether it be a quick sudden death, or a slow treacherous one, watching murder and other human atrocities unfold on social media and news outlets is painfully damaging. It’s harmful to our health and wellbeing.

I have talked at some length about the recent death of my father. As an aging African American Baby Boomer, he shared everything he understood about racism with me from the time I was old enough to understand it. But this is not uncommon in households of color. In fact, it’s been essential–no, it’s been critical. History repeats itself unfortunately, and if you don’t know your history, you’ll have difficulty navigating the present and anticipating the future.

In our home, we had a photograph book with information about lynchings. I think I’ve looked at the book once, and that was over 15 years ago. But the images were so striking and haunting that I could sit here now without looking at the pages and describe to you in detail what’s in it. One commonality across photos was the presence of a gallery. Men, women and small children all gathered to watch these lynchings and they were completely amused by them. This was an acceptable practice and so folks had no shame in watching these murders alongside their children.

1philandocastile
Philando Castile

Today, I’m thankful to take a walk on a sunny day and not worry about encountering a lifeless body hanging from a tree. It even sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

 

It’s not.

I have new worries. I sit in common places like a hospital lobby or a movie theater, or a church and sometimes I feel a heightened awareness of who is in the room. I now know that mass killings can take place at any time, and anywhere. I worry about an encounter with police ending badly, not just for myself, but for the people who I love. And it concerns me that if something does happen, it can be broadcast live within seconds, even live, and that won’t serve as proof that an injustice has occurred.

I can’t watch the video of Philando Castile being killed. I don’t want to, and in that decision, I feel guilty. If his girlfriend and daughter were forced to witness it and live with that image of him, then what allows us to turn away from it? We can’t.

I choose not to watch it, or any other videos like it. I try to be mindful about how much I’m watching and reading about murders. That’s what they are. Murders, and hate crimes. Murder is unnatural traumatic. It alters your course of thinking and the decisions that you make. When you watch people who look like you or love like you, be aggressively pursued, abused and murdered on video, a piece of you crumbles.

Trauma is real. I encourage you to reduce your media intake whenever possible. You don’t have to feel guilty about that. I encourage you to think twice about taking on debates with people who do not value your worth and whose only mission is to reinforce the hate that causes these horrible things to happen in the first place. You need your energy. You need your sleep. You need your peace. You need you.

Take Care,

D. Southern

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