African Lives Matter!
I have been minding my own business as I settle down in my new home city - the city of New Orleans, fondly known as The Big Easy or Crescent City.
A few weeks ago I drove to the Tulane University downtown campus for an appointment. I still rely on my navigation system to get around the city. When I was about half a block to the parking garage, I missed my turn and turned into a narrow one-way street. As soon as I turned, I realized my mistake and pulled to the side, to make a u-turn since there were no vehicles coming toward me. Suddenly a police car drove straight toward me and the officer turned on his flashing blue lights. He immediately, and I mean immediately started shouting over the loud speaker at me with unwarranted aggression. Images of Sandra Bland and many other black folks' encounters with the police played in my mind. There were no other vehicles in sight. Just me and the officer.
My breathing was shallow and I was shaking like a leaf because I was feeling threatened. My sweaty palms could hardly grip the steering wheel for the 3-point turn. My car, Gloria 2.0 suddenly seemed larger than the width of the road. I stuck my hand out the window to signal to the officer that I was turning around. He continued to shout at me and I thought this was the day I was going to meet my Jesus. I realized my hand signal could be mistaken for wielding a weapon and quickly pulled it back. My heart was racing and all sorts of thoughts were zipping through my mind. I was fully aware that I was a black woman encountering a white police officer and knew that this encounter could go south pretty quickly. It seemed like forever before I turned my car around and turned back to the street and found my way to the medical school parking garage a street over. I did not look back.
Y'all, racial trauma is real. In light of this week's traumatic and fatal encounters of black men and children with the police, I recognized the reason for my hypervigiance and particularly heightened physiological response. I work with a number of black clients dealing with racial trauma as a result of such encounters. Secondary racial trauma is real for black and brown folks. And no, it does not respect your intragroup identity as an African immigrant, African American, Black Latinx, or Caribbean Islander.
My heart has been bleeding this week for Daunte Wright's family, Adam Toledo's family, and military officer Caron Nazario's brutal encounter with the police just to name a few from just this week. I encourage you to find safe spaces where you can process your feelings and experiences and be validated. Step away from repeatedly watching the videos of brown and black folks' encounters with the police. Don't ignore the direct or indirect impact of these traumatic events on your functioning. Find spaces where you can be seen for simply being you and be validated. I do and continue to use those spaces.
My undisputed safest place is my relationship with God. I lean on my faith in God and remind myself that He knows me and that I belong to Him. He loves me. He values me. He protects me. He is my banner. He shields me. His blood is over me.
My friends, especially black and brown people, walk with your head held high knowing that God's got you. Your life matters. He has inscribed you on the palm of His hand. Reflecting on that blessed assurance of His presence with me slowed my heart rate and breathing and gave me peace as I parked my car and reflected on my encounter that day.