Athletes have their event(s.) That particular thing in which they excel, where they go into the zone, it’s mental, it’s physical, it’s being the best you can be Its trying out for an event that only occurs every 4 years. Your lifelong dream depends on you remaining injury free and peaking at the right time. It’s balancing workouts with recovery. It’s heart breaking to watch the stumbles. The steeple chase runner who catches a foot and falls. That’s it. Game over. ABC’s wide world of sports used to describe it as the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The dates for the Olympics are marked, I’ve checked streaming services to ensure I can watch. it’s more than entertainment, it’s the triumph of the human spirit. I’ll admit it, I’ll cry just seeing the sportsmanship extended from one competitor to another. As athletes it’s a journey, a moment. For the rest of us it’s pride and marvel.
in the late evening I watch comedies series when my mind is racing too much to read, and my body is too tired for much else. Athletes do physical recovery for muscles. I do mental recovery for my brain. Three different comedy series, 1992, 2019 and 2021 all had the same episode. The one in which an innocent, middle class black child is handcuffed by the police. Dear White People, I imagine you think, “oh here we go again, the poor blacks are being treated unfairly. I’m tired of every show and everything being about their mistreatment.” Yet, I think the episodes are for you. It’s to show people thrust into an untenable situation because of their skin color. It’s performative, so you will hear us, empathize, and begin to understand. But what about me? It’s a reminder, a constant reminder that no matter what, I must be watchful and no matter how much I try to avoid the wide and curvy and stay on the straight and narrow, this is my fate. Small micro traumas that break my heart.
Two events are so different in ways and the same in others. The hurdler can replay over and over the caught foot and the stumble. The outcome doesn’t change, the opportunity is lost. That moment may haunt forever. The child accused by the police. The scene can be replayed over and over and does not change. They both break my heart. The difference is, the athlete, it is of their own accord, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The child, while we try, dear lord we try to prepare them for this, it’s not a game, it’s not a competition, it’s life. While the athlete it’s once is a lifetime chance, for the child it is an introduction to what will replay itself over and over.
After did this draft it happened again. A friend said to me “I think 22 years is a long sentence for Derek Chauvin. I’m not sure about this whole thing; George Floyd did have drugs in his system; ” Fortunately, I was wearing a mask that absorbed the tears as I explained.
“I know people who, to their surprise and embarrassment, were told the $20 bill they used is counterfeit. You’ve probably used a $20 yourself and watched as the cashier held it up to the light to check for authenticity. This was the same thing. The clerk noticed the counterfeit after Mr. Floyd had left followed store policy and called the police. George Floyd was already cuffed and subdued, there was no reason to keep him face down on the pavement with a knee to his neck for more than 8 minutes.” I’m tired. I am really tired, hurt and afraid. Yet, I know this is a role I have to play over and over, because while I can see myself as George Floyd and others don’t’ see themselves as Derek Chauvin or a part of systemic racism. While most people can feel the pain of an athlete who misses their Olympic dream, they don’t empathize with the pain and trauma of the innocent black child detained unfairly by the police. The don’t see bewildered face and break down into tears.
I didn’t express my nervousness as I sat in a car waiting for a friend, hoping no one would call the police about a black woman sitting in a parked car for more than 5 minutes. Fourteen house members voted against Juneteenth as a federal holiday citing reasons such as it would be “confused with the 4th of July” and “it would make the country feel bad.” As I write this on the Fourth of July, I question how anyone would confuse the Fourth of July with Juneteenth. Yet, I recall the fear I had just 4 days ago waiting for a friend, In 2015, police tackled tennis star James Blake to the ground and cuffed him as a fraud scheme organizer. Mr Blake was standing in front of his hotel waiting for his limo. In 2019, a Chase Bank employee called the police on the mayor of Mount Vernon New York who was trying to deposit a 6 figure check into the city account. Both incidents involved black people and as in time and time again, all explained by “confusion.” Are we really that confused or slow to accept the existence and impact of systematic racism?