That White policeman pointing a shaking gun at a slumped, dying Philando Castile.
I can’t get that image out of my mind.
Honestly, I felt desensitized to the death of Alton Sterling. As a Black man in America, I know that it’s open season for us. I knew that he was killedbecause of fear. I can guess that because they found a weapon on Alton, the officers won’t be punished (but the videographer might).
This is something we have relived time and time again in the Black community.
But when I saw Philando’s horrific killing – not even 24 hours after Alton’s – something broke inside of me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to curse. I wanted to scream. I thought about how much more there is to do; how we’re still dealing with the effects of slavery, still fighting for seats at all kinds of tables, and still battling tooth and nail for our civil liberties. How much more can a people take?
I decided that I would go to work. Part of me wanted to call in Black and stay under my covers, but a larger part of me wanted to actually bring my entire self to work.
I was an emotional wreck, so I set some ground rules for myself to avoid being easily triggered during the day. I’ve decided to institutionalize these rules for dealing with the unfortunate reality that there will be more racial injustices to grieve in the future.
1. I will let myself experience my full range of emotions.
At 10 a.m. I felt like I wanted to cry, so I cried. At 1 p.m. I was angry, so I wrote down my frustrations. Instead of bottling up all that I was feeling, I let myself release the good, the bad, and the ugly.
2. I will not feel obliged to explain why I’m affected by these tragedies.
As a Black gay man in corporate America, I find myself sharing my narrative often. It’s simply what happens when your intersections fall in the minority. I’m usually happy to do it, but during times like these, I’m doing a disservice to myself sharing trauma-inducing experiences for the sake of another’s development. Instead, I choose to share what I’m feeling. As opposed to draining me, these conversations are helpful because it encourages me not to stew in grief.
3. I will unapologetically support my colleagues.
As part of creating a psychologically-safe environment for teammates and friends alike, I welcome meetings, including those scheduled simply to be in community with one another; to express fear, anger, and sadness; and to brainstorm strategies around and concrete answers to the burning question in most folks’ minds: “How do I help?” I love a framework a colleague created and shared with me about showing up for others during traumatic and triggering events: protecting the psychological safety of the team, acknowledging the events that took place, asking your teammates how they are doing, making meaning of the events together, and taking local action.
4. I will reject all fear.
I told myself that, as soon as I stepped outside of my apartment building, I would walk with my head held high. Black people possess a love, a strength, and a power that is unmatched. I would not let fear manifested in hate make me afraid of all that I come from, all that I am, and all that I will be.
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