Over the past week, many of my non-Black friends have called, emailed, or texted to check on me and ask some form of “How are you doing? Are you OK?”
I appreciate the concern, and I answer every inquiry.
I’m not OK.
I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.
The past 3 months have felt like 3 years.
First, COVID-19 caused me to have to temporarily close two retail stores, lead my team through uncertainty, apply for disaster loans, and learn how to produce face masks, all while homeschooling a kindergartner and 4th grader.
After a while, I started to enjoy working from home, and revenues started to recover, thanks to online sales.
I read the book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. It teaches tactics for time management, like tuning out news and social media, and turning off notifications, so you can focus and be more productive.
To clear my mind, I’d detach from social media and coronavirus news. I’d take long outdoor jogs in the warm Georgia sun. Running is a form of fitness and meditation for me.
For a moment, life was good. Still strange, but good.
Then I witnessed the on-camera murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black boy who also happened to be out for a jog, just 319 miles from where I live. He was gunned down in the street by close-range shotgun blasts. According to preliminary court hearings, the white shooter stood over his body and said “f–king n–ger” after killing him.
The killers walked free for 2 months, until the public video saw the video. Even in 2020, this is the world we live in.
That scene still haunts me when I’m out for my daily jogs.
This is why I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Then I saw a video of a white lady in Central Park call the police and tell them that she was being threatened by an African-American man. That man, Christian Cooper, was peacefully birdwatching, and had simply asked her to follow the park rules and put her dog on a leash. Christian Cooper caught the entire interaction, including her lies, on video. Had he not, those lies could have resulted in cops arresting, beating, and/or killing him. Fortunately, she didn’t get away with it, but the whole interaction made my blood boil.
Then after that, I saw the on-camera murder of George Floyd, where a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes while George screamed over and over “I can’t breathe.” Despite his cries, and despite pleas from onlookers to stop, the cop continued kneeling until even after George’s body went limp.
Enough. Ok, now I’m pissed. I feel/felt like I’m the one being hunted.
The night I saw the video, I was at the office alone working late. I cranked up “F—k Tha Police” by N.W.A. in my headphones, on repeat, to help me cope with the anger.
This is why I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.
I’m not the only one. People are starting to wake up. Now there are Black Lives Matter protests in 3 continents…18 different countries. Finally some hopeful signs of change.
But then I saw officers shoot tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful protesters in our nation’s capital, seemingly instructed or encouraged by the President of the United States. The protesters were exercising their First Amendment rights. I feel like this is un-American in every way.
It seems our leadership is taking no actions to unify this country, only to further divide us. Who do we turn to when those who are supposed to protect us, might kill us?
So, yeah…this is why I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.
And how does one explain this to kids?
This was literally our dinner conversation the other night. Imagine saying this to a 6 and 10 year old:
Me: “I know we taught you to call the police (911) when something bad happens. Police are here to protect you. BUT police are people too, and as you all know, some people are bad. So you have to be careful because some police officers might hurt or even kill you.”
My kids: “Yeah, but if they kill you won’t they go to jail?”
Me: “Well, not always. More often than not, they find a way to get away with it. Like they’ll say it was self-defense or something.”
My kids: Blank stares. “Why?”
Me: “Some people hate other people just because of the color of their skin…”
Them: “Oh yeah, we learned about Martin Luther King in school. He changed that!”
Now can you see why I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted? Maybe you are too.
Being “indistractable” by tuning out the news was working well for me, until it felt like the news was about me.
Now I find myself glued to my screen from the moment I wake up. And even if I could tune out the news right now, should I? What positive change would come from ignoring the problem?
It’s time for action. Inaction is what got us to this point.
One way I take action is by continuing to be a successful Black entrepreneur, and by continuing to help other business owners grow. Especially by mentoring or creating new opportunities for those affected by recent events.
I’m fortunate to have close friends from all races. Another thing I find myself doing lately is facilitating conversations to help people understand what its like to walk in another person’s shoes.
Yes, it’s exhausting too, but important work in getting closer to a solution.
We are also donating to organizations that fight racial injustice.
This is just the beginning.
So how are you doing right now? Let me know in the comments.