When engines roar, they announce their ability to take off, and decisively indicate that motion is imminent and activity energised. Such is the world of machines, though products of human imaginations, yet many, having more autonomy than some humans. Such is the plight that racism bestows, as hearts are silenced by the oppressors’ bulwarks….and yet in the distant fair, a rainbow appears to carve a delicate runway to hope even as the beat goes on….
Somewhere over that rainbow, a black mother tucks away the vulnerability of her heartaches. As long as there are no national markers of brutality, no loud expressions of racism and injustice or inequality, then all was well, even with the screwed-up systems. We can do it all, endure it all, and live it all even while simmering underneath, she mutters. As long as the “shoes” dangling precariously with manic angst somehow stay clasped to our nation’s imaginary feet, then we can endure its recklessness, she whispers breathlessly to herself.
Dear Lord, please do not let the shoe drop, she pleads, we cannot absorb another loud police murder, another lynching, another tornado of hurt all the while knowing that many have happened already. The pain of lived injustice searing through her veins igniting a raging furnace in her mind, still she exclaims the silence always helps!
She knew the epidemic of hate and guns still sizzled but as long as it remained in the under current, not loud enough to agitate our national spirit, then each day, she and her son could reasonably navigate in obscurity and at times even lavishly.
Such has been the pattern of their existence. She moaned as she daydreamed of being able to escape it all. She imagined a vacation that disappears fear even temporarily or deploys a belongingness that escalates equity and opportunity. She imagined a community well-resourced and capable of filling every place that it’s power seeped into, she imagined the hope of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She imagined what ought to be and how different it all would be: the unity that the diversity that existed in the black community would foster, the incredible pinnacles that fortunes would bring. Taking back their identity of work, friendship, communities, socials and more, looking for some respite from too many good options, a sure sign that would unabashedly announce that they were okay.
Such were the dreams; the place she escaped to for a peace that rises above the gun violence that raged corner after corner, white, black, yellow, brown. Everyone is impacted, an equal opportunity killing spree – buoyed by the genius of the second amendment idol and it’s the religion of money and power, that damns every consequence and every voice that dares to say “ban the assault weapons”, or “require background checks”, or “limit the number of magazines sold”, or “modify eligibility to account for young people and mental health “ etc.
The woman and her peace so delicate, it was no peace at all but instead a mind track so tethered to her burning reality that it exhaled fear! Still, the beat goes on….
Suddenly her thoughts are jerked to reality, by the sudden whimper of her son as he leans over then looks up eyes blood red. What is the matter? The woman asks her son, cradling his face as she simultaneously rubs his back. He buries his face weeping, as he manages to stammer out “ I did not realise what they did to Emmett Till, why and how could they?” All of a sudden, though those words, life is reversed and she was placed right back there again, the very place she sought to escape. Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and the countless others murdered for being black. Emmet Till was merely 14, Tamir Rice was 12.
As her son wailed, embracing him, the mother muttered some consoling words as she hid her own tears, under her breath she again muttered; “this here situation is pure evil”. Just as suddenly, the boy gathers himself and heads off to his work, the mother sighs and spends the next few hours pondering this dilemma, nearly drowning in her tears.
This kind of grief has no relief, no place of respite. Her preachers are culpable,
unwilling to lead the charge in addressing and eradicating racial hatred. In fact, in the broader community, some are complicit openly advocating for and stoking the many catalysts that wake racism’s evil practice. The woman’s mind races as she contemplates the systems that thrive on and defend it, the institutional practices it created including the most virulent combination of the police force and the biased judicial system. As her thoughts lingered, she pondered these two systems that have caused the most devastating damage.
No doubt within each of these systems were good people, after all officers Donnell and Michael had once helped her cousin, taking him all the way to a well-stocked grocery store to buy supplies after his car broke down roadside with his two young children in tow. After delivering the groceries, they went back to his car, checked it out and restarted it, diagnosing a faulty ignition system. When he told his story, many family members exclaimed in disbelief, most just grateful he did not meet the “real police officers”. Officers Donnell and Michael no doubt were outliers, because the police institution in the south was borne from slave catchers, who maimed and murdered runaway and free slaves in a bid to return them to masters. In the north, the force birth by illegal brigades, working for “strong men” and questionable operations in warehousing, liquor trade, money laundering, gambling, prostitution, levy and tax collection etc. who carried out raids of oppression and intimidation to harass, recover debts, collect usury, deter opponents and disenfranchise the vulnerable.
In the judicial system, there was also Judge Collins who had a reputation for fairness and wisdom. To be brought before his courtroom was to be assured justice, but she sighed heavily because for the one fair judge Collins were dozens of unfair judges who considered black as inherently deserving of injustice. At least this was the reality of most; the overwhelming outlook being that as long as the victim or defendant was black, there was no need to be just. Their silent creed “of incarcerate or disenfranchise” echoing loudly through the very halls that others come to obtain justice!
As her heart raced, her thoughts skimmed over the healthcare system that openly disparaged her people and the financial system that shunned them. It was everywhere, racism had tentacles in everything and every important system, it had created this very lopsided life that black people have been subjugated by.
For the decades of her lifetime, she had become aware of both the current time and the near history that those who spoke up were silenced or ignored. It was a forgone conclusion, that the life of a black person was negotiable and the poorer or more disenfranchised he or she appeared, the more negligent the system acted toward them. Police brutality and murder prevailed, the judicial, healthcare, and financial systems all complied, executing and extracting illegal victories at the expense of black lives.
Then the cameras and videos showed up bringing to light the raw footage of the carnage. The truth once again displayed “in living colour”, still that was not enough to secure accountability. The prevailing thought being somehow within all that evil and wrong, was still an understanding that keeping black people subjugated far outweighed any matters of truth, conscience, and accountability.
Black people, never silent continued to speak out, walk out, hold out and shout out in so many ways, many seeking justice directly on the corridors of the judiciary, Thurgood Marshall, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous and more recently Ben Crump and BLM to name a few. They amplified the voices of victims making the case for the words of Martin Luther King that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.
The black voice reverberates across the universe awaking consciences, attempting to bring agency to black lives reminding the world again and again of Tamir Rice (12 year old), Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless others, you can see an extended list via this link https://sayevery.name. Sometimes, it sinks in, and the world responds, and justice is served. However, the ‘one at a time empathy franchise’, releases such a slow trickle grossly outpaced by the floods of black blood.
As the mother watches her son return to his work like his wailing never happened, she wanders about this trauma afflicting so many of her people including herself. She laments before her God and with deliberate anguish she beseeches her Maker wanting desperately to know; when? Just as intensely as if in reply she says, “when you become restless you will break the yoke”, in the meantime, the beat goes on…..
About Ngozi Bell
Take a listen to this podcast Say It Skillfully® OUR VOICES – Ngozi & Okezue Bell, Carpe Diem! Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (voiceamerica.com)
Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work
experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).