Black people have been screaming forever—yet in higher pitches since 2020. Given technological advances, now we can show you our lived experience of pain on camera. You can see live footage of the murder of our people by some ‘bad apples’ in blue uniforms. We share our own personal trauma on social media platforms and maybe, for once, receive empathy. Our screams have been amplified and we recognize digital platforms as our co-authoring friend.
One thing for sure, you’d have to live under a rock to honestly say, “I haven’t heard a Black person scream.” Let me be more explicit—all races demonstrate pain which includes violence, abuse, and depression that can result in detrimental impacts on health. Hell, we even cry out for help in our spiritual places of worship. The unfortunate silent elephant in the room is that our Black scream has become normalized—and that’s not O.K.
It took a global pandemic for our communities to speak freely about the urgent need to heal from our pain. Many individuals across our melanin diaspora are advocating to find ways to heal and tend to self-care. The old generational code of “suck it up” referring to our daily struggle with systemic racism is being replaced and a new notion of thriving, not just merely surviving, is taking root in our consciousness. The present call is to “identify the pain so you can find healthy ways to release and recharge.”
Systemic racism isn’t the only planted seed embedded in our struggle—it is also the American Dream. It’s American exceptionalism. But the idea that our brilliance is one out of a million or be it one out of a thousand is a farce. Our brilliance is one out of every one—but history has achieved such success that his story makes far too many think there’s a scarcity of Amanda Gordons.
I mean, we consume these inferior notions so habitually that far too many Blacks engage in the “crab in the barrel” mentality, thinking only one of us can be at the top. This incites a level of competitiveness or envy which sticks with us like the memorable fly on Mike Pence’s silver hair. Why is it that only one of us can be great? We must STOP telling our children that they are the only ones who are great—and tell them that we all can exude greatness. This goddam American dream got us running around the bases, throwing bats at one another, striking one another out, and forgetting that we are all on the same team!
Prior to COVID, I worked tirelessly as an educator for my students to have a shot at the “American dream.” Even during the pandemic, our school community has persevered through new virtual learning platforms, trying to hold onto joy and happiness amidst much uncertainty. It was hard enough, and then the world got hit with a viral video of the insidious murder of George Floyd.
My brother, the Black world’s brother was slowly murdered for a duration of 9 minutes 29 seconds. On this day, I screamed—parts of the world screamed, the Black community wailed in a manner new to our generation. Even today, as I compose this piece, we are revisited with the haunting trauma of abusive assault to Lt. Caron Nazario, and the police murders of Adam Toledo (a 13-year-old Latino son) and Daunte Wright—a 20-year-old Minnesota resident, who had phoned his mother to inform her he had gotten pulled over by police questioning his expired registration tags. She never thought it’d be the last she spoke to her son. As I recount this senseless loss of life, it makes me cry—it’s unendurable.
The wailing has not been discriminatory. It aches in the souls of the rich, middle class and poor. It cut deep into the reality of achieving the American dream. I think many of us are still struggling to come to terms with how to “be.”
The recent insurrection has forced some engrossed with political power to critique white supremacy as an adversary of a peaceful democracy. And the fact that a sacred institution was sieged by American citizens caused some to finally question the atrocities of white privilege. The events of January 6 played out in America’s sacred backyard and I have to wonder—if Breonna Taylor resided at the Capitol would her life be just as sacred as the building, itself?
The morning of the Presidential inauguration in January 2021, prompted me to reflect again on the definition of an American dream. I awoke with a bit of a burden from the past four years off my shoulder. I was elated to celebrate and welcome the new administration, yet acknowledging that Black folks must also save themselves. So I sounded off on Twitter to publicly call for everyone to put on their own capes.
We have to deliberately decide to not allow our country to other us into inferiority, nor to usher us into silent contentment. While we celebrate the first Black female Vice President Kamala Harris, we must not forget our screams. We have to critique our reality and identify the pain which has fueled our screams.
This American dream based on white paternalistic and capitalistic ideologies was never intended to help us achieve, at least not in our full holistic selves. We must muster the strength to consciously change our mental framework so we can show up and resist systemic racism in our best selves, not our drained selves.
In the same manner that we are advocating for a reimagining of our educational system nationwide, we need to rename and reimagine our dream! Reimagining our dream collectively and also honoring individualized dreams will be our path to forge forward. We must model for our younger generations that to manifest our own dreams, we need both feet planted in self-love and inclusive empowerment.