Forgive me in advance for the sports analogies, but it’s the only way that I can fully process and articulate my thoughts on the turn of events that have recently transpired so please bear with me.
The quick transition from Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict to the untimely death of Ma’Khia Bryant is analogous to when a basketball player scores a buzzer-beater to win the game and his/her whole team erupts in celebration, only to experience disappointment when the referees review the replay camera and reverse the call. I’d like to think that the timing of these events was coincidental but, knowing the America I know, I firmly believe that it was premeditated.
In sports, players like to say “Next Man Up” or “Next Womxn Up” when a teammate gets injured and another teammate can seamlessly step in to pick up the slack. When speaking about the modern-day lynchings of Black people at the hands of crooked cops, “Next Man Up” or “Next Womxn Up” takes on a totally different meaning. It’s only been a little over a week since the murder of Daunte Wright and, just like that, the national conversation has swiftly shifted to Ma’Khia Bryant. Never mind the fact that our Black students are still grieving and processing Daunte’s death. America, as we should all know, has never been empathetic when it comes to the historical oppression of my people.
Unfortunately, the nerve-wracking anticipation leading up to the Chauvin verdict and the outpouring of raw, unfiltered emotion from Black people in response to Ma’Khia’s murder is just another reminder that America is still in control and pulling the emotional strings of Black people. This is the America I have ALWAYS known … it teases us with a teaspoon of JUSTICE only to rip our hearts out with multiple gallons of INJUSTICE! That has ALWAYS been America’s recipe and will CONTINUE to be unless we ALL fight against it. So here are my calls to action:
To my Black educators: Our emotional cry for justice should remind us that our racial fatigue and persistent struggle to “matter” only fuels white supremacy culture. Let’s not give white supremacy that satisfaction. Think about the greatest revolutionary leaders in our history. Their persistent push for systemic change drove many of them to racial fatigue and death. Even our ancestor Fannie Lou Hamer acknowledged she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired” when speaking about the physical and psychological toll that Black people felt during the Jim Crow era. In these difficult times, we must be intentional in choosing JOY! Joy has to be our resistance. Joy, by no means, equates to a finality to our fight for liberation and justice. That is the lesson we must model to our Black students in the classroom. If we’re not okay, our students won’t be okay.
To my white educators: We need you more than ever to shift from performative ally to active co-conspirator. Dr. Bettina Love asserts that “being a person of color is a civic project because your relationship to America, sadly, is a fight in order to matter, to survive, and one day thrive.” As co-conspirators, starting an anti-racist book club can no longer be your ceiling for engagement. You must use your privilege to alleviate the “mattering” burden from your Black students and colleagues.
In the legendary words of Main Source, it’s still a friendly game of baseball and Black people are the ones striking out. The reality is that one of our Black students could be the next Daunte Wright or Ma’Khia Bryant. That reality alone should be all the motivation we need to continue to be the “light” for our students.