As you’re aware, this has been a stunning week in American history. Between the grotesque perversity of democracy that was the Republican National Convention and recent events, everyone I’ve talked to recently is feeling an overdraft of bandwidth.
On Sunday night, a healthy 29-year-old Black male named Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back upon opening the door to the SUV where his 3 children were seated. The cops that fired were responding to a domestic incident Blake was not involved with. Witnesses say they saw Blake breaking up a fight between two women in the vicinity before he was shot by police.
To be entirely transparent, I heard the news on Monday morning and I filed the information away until I had space to reckon with it.
The headlines don’t pause for deadlines. The workday will not relent in the presence of grief or horror. Instead of processing the weekend’s events in Wisconsin, I participated in a video call with my team in my living room 1,200 miles away where discussion is limited to sanitized topics like family, weekend plans, and the weather. I wrote emails. Later that evening while protests scaled in Wisconsin, I made dinner and watched tv.
I share all this to underscore the tension between having to exist and peaceably fulfill your day-to-day responsibilities while your country’s on fire, literally and ideologically.
On Wednesday, the country woke up to the news of a 17-year-old White male opening fire on peaceful protestors, injuring 3 and killing 2. I sat in my kitchen for a while trying to reckon with the fact that citizens are being killed in the United States by other citizens simply for demanding that the state stop crushing Black and Brown bodies with impunity.
The bullets police shot into Jacob Blake’s body tore his spinal cord apart. His kidney and a fraction of his lower intestine were removed. Jacob Blake will be paralyzed for the rest of his life. And he is currently handcuffed to his hospital bed in the ICU unit he’s recovering in because police claim he is under arrest. Blake’s own father was unclear of the charges. Lieutenant Eric Klinkhammer, of the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, told the BBC: “Mr Blake is in custody for previous felony warrants. Our policy indicates that all people in custody outside of our jail facility shall be secured with restraints.”
Blake’s mother was among the first to see him after the life-saving surgeries he underwent in the hospital and her son’s first instinct was to apologize for the grief he’d put her through. She asked him if he was the one that shot himself in the back and told him he had nothing to be sorry about.
We are living in a country where Black men are apologizing for the bullets ripping through their own lives. And I will never be okay with that. It should disturb all of us.
Because it’s bullshit.
Beyond such, have you considered the trauma Jacob Blake’s children have endured? The pain they’ll feel realizing they will never be carried by or run alongside their father again? The pain rippling through this community right now and the sear felt in the cities that have seen it all before?
I’m writing you with a heavy heart and I think that’s alright. I don’t understand anything about the age we are living in, and beyond denouncing it as evil, I won’t pretend to. I simply hope you will join me in dismantling the beast devouring the lives of our Black brothers and sisters by organizing, voting, and speaking up against injustice.
My prayers are with Jacob Blake’s family.