What does mental illness mean when you are a black person living in America? Everyday is more distressing than most people will admit and it seems as though the days are getting longer. I was searching for escapism on social media. I found myself on Instagram looking at goofy vines. It worked for a while, until I stumbled across a video of a man being shot to death as he walked down the street. I watched this 15 second video about three times before I read the caption which revealed that the person murdered was not a man, on the contrary he was 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the person who murdered him was a police officer.
I do not think that an American born person who is not of African descent can understand the mental unease associated with having to fear the same people who are paid to protect you. Furthermore, if you are a black man living in America then what is known as paranoid schizophrenia is not a disorder as much as it is a strict interpretation of the world that you were born into because everyone actually is trying to kill you. There was a cover up in the Laquan McDonald murder that implicates members from every level of law enforcement in the city of Chicago. From other officers on the scene, to internal investigations, on up to the chief of police. Even mayor Rahm Emmanuel has blood on his hands. But only one officer is charged with murder and it took over a year for that to happen. So what about all of the other accessories to the killing? Why are they not being held accountable? How can members of the black community sleep at night knowing that there are officers of the law patrolling their communities who do not care if they live or die?
Do you know what it feels like for a global movement to be necessary to inform the world that your life matters? That when we get hit it hurts? That when we get cut we bleed? That when we die our loved ones mourn? That we have loved ones? That we know how to love? That we are actual human beings with three dimensions and souls?
Sometimes I don’t get out of bed. Often times I don’t want to be around people. It isn’t uncommon for me to miss a meal because I just don’t feel like eating and I suppose if I hired some white man with a PhD in Psychiatry to tell me what’s wrong with me he would come up with a whole host of things that I suffer from and prescribe a whole dresser drawer full of pills—but I refuse to give him the satisfaction. I don’t know everything but I know that what the white man calls crazy is very subjective. What is not subjective is the fact that he created all the conditions that have led to this black man’s depression.
So how do we process the fact that if you are black in America the term mentally ill is completely synonymous with your consciousness? And the more aware you are that this country does not care about your existence then the more likely you are to implode. I struggle with how to deal with the melancholy truth that mental illness is our normalcy and to be sane is to be oblivious to one of the oldest American conspiracies. And that is that the masses of black people in this country must remain in a state of fear and unctuous servitude in order to preserve this nation.
Imagine the feeling of reaching for your emotions only to find them not there. Imagine living a hollow existence even though you are said to be a man of great depth. Manhood is a game of concealment. Conceal your emotions just like a player conceals his hand in dominoes. I have a weak hand but a dope strategy. I see people coming before they appear. Paranoia is no disorder for me. Paranoia is a necessity. The world was not created with the intentions of endowing this man with pride. Knowledge of self is contraband in a white-hot hell.
I found myself on a city bus in the state of Oregon yesterday. I had a destination in mind but my time wasn’t my own. I had to wait, just like everyone else, for the driver to make all of his stops. I looked out of the window and thought about the world and my place in it. Would I ever have complete control over my life or will I always be in debt? Will I ever be completely self-sufficient or will I always have a boss like figure who I have to appease?
The earth is a gorgeous place. I am very fortunate to be here. But I desire to experience it on my own terms. I don’t want a master. I don’t want a dictator. I don’t want a supervisor. I only want to serve Christ and be humble in my own liberation.
When you’ve had the long talk about why the two of you can no longer be together
And you’ve unfriended her on Facebook and blocked her Instagram as well
When you’ve placed all the pictures of her that you have on your iPad into your digital wastebasket
When you’ve deleted her as a contact on your Facetime along with all the goofy emails exchanged during that blissful time when the two of you spoke of eternity as reality
And when you have taken the time to delete the profile picture on the Groupme account you shared with her
Then you can begin the process of forgetting the sound of her panting and the curl of her toes. The loudness of her snore and the fullness of her Afro. The way she used to beat you at every game you played with her; air hockey, tennis, wrestling, love etc. And the irony of her insatiable desire to listen to Donny Hathaway on vinyl because as it turns out, giving up really is hard to do
And then you can forget all of the ground you covered with her only to have more ground appear only to realize there lay a chasm between the two of you that your love alone could never bridge. It is only then that you can forget that you tried harder than ever before but you failed all the same. It is only then that you can begin to become reacquainted with how enormous the world can be for a person that must traverse it alone. Then you will finally come to terms with the truth. And that truth is that you were always alone and you will always be alone because alone is how god made you.
He was the most promising thing that had ever happened to her nonexistent love life. He was marriage material, and it frightened her to think like that because she had never known anyone that had ever gotten married. Certainly not her mother who had her, and her sister by a former standout high school football player who eventually turned to cocaine and crystal-meth. Not her older sister who had gotten herself pregnant by a local hoodlum and want to be playboy who, when drunk, would send her pictures of his dick on snapchat. Not herself, she had never been proposed to by the boy who had impregnated her shortly after her 20th birthday and she had never wanted him to. He was an aspiring rapper who ate with his mouth open and didn’t believe in keeping a job. He had shown an intense interest in her when he met her at the bus stop. She remembered thinking that he was kind of funny looking and had a very thin long face like a camel. She wasn’t attracted to him but she loved the way he wanted her, the smile that he had given her, the crass words about the shape of her hips came out sounding rather sweet. She was even charmed by the way he had to keep pulling his pants up because he had forgotten his belt and his skinny jeans were a few sizes too big. She gave him her number. He called, they fucked a few times, she got pregnant, she told him, he never called again, he blocked her on Facebook, deactivated his Instagram and disappeared. She didn’t really care. Honestly she didn’t. He wouldn’t have made much of a father anyway. Besides she would rather raise her child by herself with no interference.
But now she met this promising brotha at a church function. He was with his family but his soul still wandered. He stood in the pulpit briefly to tell the congregation about the boy’s camp that he had started and how he needed their help. “Give me your boys” he orated “and I will do everything in my power to make men of them.” She thought this was very corny but she was still intrigued. Her son was far too young to attend the camp but she still got his business card after the service anyway. She emailed him the next day, and when he didn’t respond to her satisfaction she called him at his job and left a message with his secretary. The whole time she thought about his cream colored suit and matching tie. She ultimately became impressed by the dramatic nature in which he spoke and his extensive knowledge of scripture, not to mention his youth. He had to be the youngest settled man she had ever seen. She envied his wife and his daughter. She wanted him for her bedroom and she wanted him for her son. She didn’t feel like she was worthy of all of him just yet but she felt like she deserved a little piece. He should be able to spare that. So she continued to call him at his job, and she visited his home church, she helped out at the fundraiser for his camp, and she emailed him inspirational quotes.
Finally he began to open up about everything that his marriage was not, and she listened. She began to talk about her son, and he listened. She began to laugh hardily at all of his jokes. Even the ones that weren’t funny—especially the ones that weren’t funny. She called him sexy and said, “If your wife ever slips up then you know who to call.” He ended that conversation abruptly. So abruptly that she just knew that she had lost him and she cursed herself for it. But the next day he called back from his job and after several minutes of small talk he asked in a nervous, secretive tone if she wanted to come and see him every now and then. She said ok. He then gave her a location to meet him and she told him that she was looking forward to it.
She felt extremely accomplished when he finally reciprocated her lust. She never felt bad at all. She felt contented in knowing that she could have a piece of something great. She felt like his touch would raise her above the predetermined fate of all of her foremothers. That if he left work to be with her for an hour then that would elevate her consciousness. And that after enough hours he would come home to her and teach her little guy how to tie a tie, go fishing, and catch a football while she cooked dinner and ironed his clothes. With this young ambitious man she would be able to press the reset button on her womanhood. She had gotten his attention. She earned her hour and now she would submit to him and he would be hers for as long as it took for him to be hers.
As much as I loved to see Bree Newsome climb that flagpole and put in serious work this morning, I have to confess that taking down the Confederate Flag won’t make me feel any better. Drafting stricter gun control laws won’t put my soul at ease either. What would make me feel better about the nine people murdered while they prayed in a South Carolina church is if the person who killed them was actually treated like a mass murderer as opposed to a child who threw a temper tantrum or unconsciously hurt someone’s feelings.
I was sickened when I saw the arrest of Dylann Roof. Perhaps even more sickened than when I read about his initial crime. In the video he pulls over to the side of the road and is very calmly and gently handcuffed and walked to an awaiting squad car.
It is confirmed that the officers later took him to Burger King because he said that he was hungry. There was no repulsion from the officers, no rage, no yelling, no violent search, none of the officers roughly crammed his body to into the patrol car after he was handcuffed. No. It was almost as if they all felt sorry for the kid. The 21 year-old-kid who accidentally walked into a church, befriended a prayer group and then blew all of its members away. They treated this heathen as if he had done god’s work.
I’ve seen a child as young as 12-years-old have his head slammed against the trunk of squad cars for participating in a dice game. I’ve seen suspects pulled out of car windows, and I’ve seen faces smashed into the concrete by arresting officers. Just at the beginning of this month Dajerria Becton was slammed to the ground and had a cop put all of his bodyweight on her because she was suspected of attempting to illegally enter a swimming pool, but Dylann Roof on the other hand—Dylann Roof is a special kind of suspect. He could be any police officer’s child or brother or, to be quite honest, he could be any police officer. They probably envied him for being able to kill all of those black people at same time while they can only pick them off one by one.
One can see that the officers care about Dylann Roof in the same way that the judge at his arraignment showed that he cares for him by announcing that Dylann’s family are victims. The Judge said this at a time when Dylann could have literally still had the blood of those which he had slain on his flesh. He could have still had gunpowder residue on his fingertips and his adrenaline was probably still charged from his bold strike for the white race yet, in that moment, he is viewed sympathetically and that judge and those officers and maybe even the whole system have the compassion to immediately see the humanity in this killer. Even though he has yet to apologize or express remorse. He hasn’t found Jesus or cried or looked afraid or ashamed yet the system has a place in its heart for the Dylann Roof’s of the world. I mean I’m sure that one could ask any drug dealer in Charlotte or Raleigh (who hasn’t killed anyone) is it North Carolina state policy to buy suspects fast food after an arrest and they would laugh out loud.
If one had any doubts about the existence of white privilege in every single facet of the American Judicial System then the handling of Dylann Roof should burn that doubt to a crisp similarly to how Dylann was photographed burning the American flag. So no I really don’t care if every state building in the South takes down the Confederate Flag or if every major retail store in America refuses to sell it. For the original Confederacy was a group of treasonous guerillas that rejected federal law by violent means therefore I’m sure the descendants of these individuals will not hesitate to continue to wave its flag and believe in its principles whether it’s on front of the state capital building or not.
All I wanted was for law enforcement to look past the color of a suspect just once to see that Dylann is a vile human-being who need not be treated delicately and need not be given a value meal on his way to jail. But that didn’t happen. America has waved its true flag in dealing with the South Carolina massacre and that flag isn’t orange and blue nor is it red white and blue. That flag isn’t decorated with stars and bars nor is it decorated with stars and stripes. That flag is all white. For white is the only color that has ever mattered in this country.
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area then you should come to this event on Friday Night.
2926 Foothill Blvd #1, Oakland, California 94601
Join us for a night filled with the moving words of Roger Porter and music by the mesmerizing Azuah.
Donations will be kindly requested, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Roger Porter is a writer and educator from Oakland, CA, USA, whose first book, The Souls of Hood Folk, is available at lulu.com. He describes himself as, “An average everyday man from East Oakland who writes about average everyday hood life.” He blogs at ghettosun.com.
Inspired by the mesmerizing sounds of Lianne La Havas and the soulfulness in the music of Allen Stone, Azuah is underway of making her debut in the music world as an alternative folk and blues artist with just the right touch of soul. Her emotionally provocative songwriting in juxtaposition with her haunting melodies captivates her audiences from the first note until the last strum.
There is ample street parking, but just to make it easy, there is an O’Reilly Auto Parts/Walgreens on the corner of Fruitvale and Foothill with a huge parking lot. Here’s a Google Map link: https://www.google.com/maps/place/O’Reilly+Auto+Partsfirstname.lastname@example.org,-122.233008,14z/data=!4m5!1m2!2m1!1so+reilly+auto+parts+near+Foothill+Blvd,+Oakland,+CA!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xa74c9fbc2152bd68
Nomadic Press should show up on that map as well. We are just in between Austin and Rutherford on Foothill.
Hope to see you soon!
Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my solitude and became dependent on that which cannot be trusted. This must have happened around the same time my soul was uprooted, the soil beneath my feet eroded, and I realized that I was disappearing. One can only trust a person to be a person. Unfortunately I put my trust in humanity and strayed away from my craft. Flesh is tempting yet woefully unfulfilling. We were all born having to carry the burden of the original sin thus we spend our whole lives falling. On this night I want to begin the process of falling in love with myself yet again.