A rare Saturday dispatch from the desk of Truly Tafakari! I want to tell you about my adventures ignoring trolls and misguided fools on Facebook and Twitter.
Last week, the US was again embroiled in the infuriating discovery of another Black man killed by the police, seemingly unjustly. No matter how frequently these cases pop up, each one is like a fresh wound to our nation’s psyche. If you don’t get tired, then you may not be human. We all get tired. We get angry, we get fed up, we take action. We disagree on what action to take. We disagree on everything. And we do it loudly.
Social media has a way of intensifying and amplifying the voices of all terrible, marginalized opinions. Even if the odious turd saying Freddie Gray got what he deserved only represents 1% of the country’s opinion, he is right now in YOUR Twitter mentions stinking up the place. He becomes part and parcel of The Problem. He cannot be ignored. So you engage and it makes your blood boil. You hop from status to status, ranting and trying to get the other side to see your point. But this is the Internet and that’s not how things work.
I was all set to do that this week.
However, on Monday I had a “conversation” with a friend of mine of who fundamentally disagrees with my stance that every Black life, even the criminal ones, deserves due process rather than summary execution. The exchange left me feeling bruised and raw.
Understand that I write for me, primarily, because I’m a fountain of words and thoughts–I need an outlet. I also write because I believe the world can change. I have to believe it. It’s faith (both Christian and humanist) that people can accomplish great things, inspired by God or by love. I cannot succumb to the worst this life has to offer because I know its potential for good. So I write in hope. I write as if no issue is ever “unsolvable.” I am no fatalist; I am catalyst.
When I tell you talking to my friend left me feeling hopeless, that’s how bad it was. I had one more exchange that day about respectability politics and that was the straw that broke my little heart. My thoughts were in disarray. I became despondent. Lifting fingers to type felt futile with my heart so heavy.
People like to pretend “it’s just Facebook/Twitter” as if words do not carry the power of life and death, even through a computer screen. Words still matter. As much I am good about staying out of drama, I’m not made of Teflon.
So I decided then and there to preserve my spirit. I didn’t take a full-fledged social media fast because Jesus is still working on me. But I refrained from comments about Baltimore, Ferguson, police brutality, racism, sexism, or anything else marginally upsetting. Sometimes I do this, where I just stop discussing what everyone else is talking about. I talked about my crappy commute (driving one hour!) I talked about Grey’s Anatomy killing off [redacted] and how stupid the last episode was. I got trivial.
Did I see things that made me go “hmmm?” YES. And a couple times, it took every single fiber of my being not to respond. But typing only one comment/response or status is about as easy as eating only one French fry out of a whole stack. But I avoided it! I went to sleep every night by 10 PM, sometimes crashing in my work clothes. I rested body, mind and spirit.
Yesterday, I finally felt clear-headed and refreshed. And furious. But I also felt strong enough to articulate why I was so angry. This is what I said:
Baltimore PD had no probable cause to arrest Freddie Gray. He made eye contact, ran, and was charged with possession of a switchblade. He had a pocket knife. That is not a crime. That BPD would injure him in several places (because a broken spine wasn’t his only injury), ignore his pleas for medical attention, fail to properly restrain him in the van, pick up an additional passenger, make extra stops ostensibly to beat him further and then have the audacity to insinuate this man caused his own spine to sever? I am FURIOUS.
For those of you who would claim we always reap what we sow, what seed did Freddie Gray plant to merit this? Looking at a cop? Are we in 1850 or 1950 where downcast eyes could save a Black man’s life? Are we barred from looking into the overseer’s eyes in 2015? Wherein is Freddie Gray’s “thug?” Tell me again how an unlawful arrest should result in a covered up death.
I’ve been reading statuses all week bend over backward to say whatever treatment we receive in the hands of the police is merited. TREAD CAREFULLY. That sounds so much like a dictatorial police state. Because if America establishes that the police are infallible, then no rule of law can save you from their sick brand of justice.
And I don’t even need to use the word thug to get my point across (Yall seriously need a thesaurus). Those 6 Baltimore PD officers are murderers.
It was worth waiting all week for that to come out. I felt better writing it. The thoughts had been roiling in my head in a jumble until then. What happened when I deliberately avoided debating or ranting on Facebook and Twitter? In my own silence, I found the strength I needed to use my voice wisely. Sometimes we gotta heal before we can help others do the same.
Take care of yourselves. Rant when you need to. Unplug when you need to. Do something joyful that reminds you what you’re fighting for. Love.