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Home Opinion Originally published July 17, 2013

You Cannot Love Me And Not Love Black Men And Boys: We Are Inextricably Linked

by April Yvonne Garrett

    April Yvonne Garrett, curator of TheAYGList.com. (Courtesy Photo)
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I've been talking with my friends about what they are telling their children about what happened to Trayvon Martin. What Black men and women are saying to their sons. What Black men and women are saying to their daughters. What everyone else, from all other backgrounds, are saying to their children, their loved ones, their friends. Their stories are ripping me into shreds.

We, as a nation, are ill-equipped to have the conversation that is necessary to scrape the surface of the agony that so many of us, from all walks of life and vastly different perspectives, feel about the outcome of this case.

What I know for sure is that it is impossible for you to love me-- my faith, my passion, my intellect, my body of work, my accomplishments, my skin, my joy, my laugh, my tenacity, my grit, my funk-- and not love Black men and boys. All of them. No matter how articulate or inelegant they may be, no matter how successful or wayward they may be, no matter how polished or thugged out they may be, no matter how kindhearted or belligerent they may be. To love me, you must love them: every single one of them. Even the ones who disappoint you, even the ones who scare you, even the ones who piss you off. YOU CANNOT VALUE MY LIFE AND NOT VALUE THE LIVES OF BLACK MEN AND BOYS AS WELL. WE ARE INEXTRICABLY LINKED.

I have never been comfortable being the "acceptable minority:" the one whose successes in life can be used to prove a point to mainstream society that says, "See, "they" really can be like "us" if they work hard and leave the weight and gravity of race behind them." As if my accomplishments, no matter how big or small, negates the persistence of race and racism in America and globally? How remarkably suffocating it is to live in such a way as to have the very breath I take be measured by the length of an instrument that deliberately denies my full humanity. How deadening it is to be forced into a dance with a devil who is trying to kill my very soul at every turn every, single day. How maddening it is to know that no sooner than the very moment I stop to smell the roses, the world will thrust me right back into the acrid stench of a new and improved form of my oppression. It seems never ending. 50 years after my King shared his dream, we are here?

The reality is that for all of the celebrating we do over a Black president, Black CEO's, Black billionaires, and the like, none of that Black assimilationist success translated into changing the heart and mind of a man who decided it was his right to stalk and kill an unarmed, 17-year old Black boy who went on a candy run, in cold blood, with the law on his side. For all of the banter about American jurisprudence, I invite you to sit with that for a moment. A 28 year-old man, stalked and killed an unarmed, 17 year-old boy. The law of this land is on his side. He is a free man, allowed to carry the same gun he used to kill that child. That child will never see another day. Again, the tears are streaming and I cannot see the keyboard. I cannot breathe.

Willie, Jaxon, Christopher, David. The names of four Black boys born to my loved ones over the past year. Four boys who will have to be taught how to behave, what to wear, how to handle their bodies, where to place their hands, and what to say in public to reduce their chances of being harmed due to the racial aggression against them that we have accepted and allowed to go unchecked for far too long. They will have to learn this as boys, as very young boys, before their voices even start to develop the first hints of any bass.

I will never get over the fact that with all of the love, support, and opportunities I have been blessed with, from people of all stripes, in my lifetime, in this country, there was not one thing I could do to ensure that Trayvon got to see his father again that night instead of being taken, unidentified, to the morgue in a body bag, six doors away from his father's home.

I will never get over that.
I will never get over that.
I will never get over the fact that this happened in my country, the United States of America, in 2013.
I will never get over that.

This is a reflection. This is not a surrender.

I will never bow down. I will never bow out. I will never retreat.

I will never be defeated.

April Yvonne Garrett is curator of TheAYGList.com.



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