When I Wake Up, It Won’t Matter if It’s 1860, 1960, or 2014

Sometimes I think about staying in Europe. But Europe does not understand my pain.

I stayed up really late to work, but more importantly to listen to the grand jury decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. I was writing the beginning of my conclusion when the live newsfeed began rolling across my screen. I knew as I listened to the man’s words that this would end like all the other times. Each claim of media blame and ‘unfounded’ statements and social media frenzy drove knives through my chest as I felt my word sink a little deeper into the numbness that comes from familiar pain.

I read a post that said, “Everyone’s guilty except the people who are.” You took the words right out of my mouth.

I shut the feed off a few minutes past the declaration that the grand jury would not be indicting Wilson, and felt the first few angry tears sting my eyes and blur my vision. I could no longer clearly see the conclusion to my paper. I haven’t been able to see the conclusion for days now.

In one of my supervisions my supervisor asked me if I would engage with theories of a post-racial America. I felt a bubble of laughter swell in my chest at the thought of such a laughable suggestion, but I quelled the feeling. I came to Cambridge because I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to find a way to get my seat at the table that is allowed to produce knowledge. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that on some days, I just feel lost. I’m writing a term paper, and eventual master’s thesis, on the potential for positive impact Afrocentric education can have for our children of color. It would give them a different way of conceptualizing the world, one in which they would not have to be assessed through a lens already bent on destroying them, telling them that ‘different is deficient.’ For them, self-knowledge would be the highest form of knowledge, and education would not sell them the idea of socio-economic mobility and safety, but rather the tools to become their own producers of knowledge–of themselves, of their people, and of the world.

But I have not finished the conclusion. I can’t seem to bring myself to write the summary of this work, nor do I feel encouraged to do so. Tomorrow I have another supervision, and the only thought in my head right now is to rip up each page of this paper because it.does.not.matter. I’m not sure what I thought I would find here. I’m not sure how exactly to fit into what feels like a fixed narrative for black bodies.

Tonight, I will probably fall asleep to tear stained cheeks. Tonight, I will probably cling a little tighter to James Orbinski’s words that if we can imagine a better tomorrow then it can come to pass. My grip so tight some nights, I can feel it squeezing through the creases in my fingers.

And I think especially tonight, for the first time, I’m a little selfishly grateful to not have 4 classes to teach. To have to smile through curriculum that itself does.not.matter. Because there are days when I’m too weak to smile and say that things will be different one day. That even though at least in 1860 we were not hunted because our labour was ‘prized,’ we should be grateful to live in the 21st century.

I am only grateful for sunrises that have become precious for so many of my people. And the chance to try to begin again, without forgetting, and think about how the work is not done. That’s how they got us the first time–they tried to convince us that the work was done and finished. We must stay vigilante. We must keep working: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it’s done.”

Tomorrow, I will begin again. And try to find the right words for this conclusion.

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