Time Does Not Heal All Wounds
It has been just a few months since the aftermath of Ferguson…since the death of Mike Brown. In that time we’ve come to learn the names of more: John Crawford III, Darien Hunt, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice and so many others slain at the hands of police. Yesterday the grand
klavern jury voted to not indict the White police officer who used a banned choke hold to squeeze the life out of Eric Garner. The list is never ending. The victims of overt and covert institutional racism.
These days I find myself confronting that all too familiar pain—the dull ache of knowing that racism is so real and so powerful that it literally chooses which Black people will live and which will die. It’s the same pain I feel every time racism decides between justice for our community and the need to protect White privilege.
It’s the type of hurt we try to ignore and pray will get better with time.
But like a scab over a never healing wound, the pain of racism sits just above the surface of our skin waiting to be exposed all over again the next time it decides to play White supremacy roulette.
You see, time does not heal all wounds. There are some injuries that are so horrific, so brutal and so deep that simply giving them “time” only serves to allow them to fester. To grow. To mutate. These are the type of hurts that unless you do something to intervene, with “time” they only become sores infected with maggots as they continue to rot to the core.
Wounds caused by racism are those kinds of wounds. The kinds of wounds that get worse and grow deeper with time. When ignored long enough, these wounds erupt into rebellions like those sparked by the brutality of a White cop killing an unarmed Black boy in Ferguson.
History Matters: No Mere Coincidence
As noted by author Gary Howard:
“It is no mere coincidence that the children of certain racial, cultural, linguistic and economic groups – those who have been marginalized by the force of Western White domination – are the same students who are now failing or underachieving at disproportionate rates in our nation’s schools.”
Though this quote is specific to schools, its message applies to every aspect of Black and White reality. It is “no mere coincidence” that the children who descended from those dragged here in chains are still living lives largely defined by chains. It’s no mere coincidence that the children who descended from those who (pillaged and plunged an entire continent and profited from using torture the likes of which the world had never seen in order to extract free labor from fellow human beings for life because they were too lazy to work for themselves) profited by holding the keys to those chains are still living lives largely defined by the wealth that was earned by slave labor.
And time alone won’t fix that.
There is not enough time to just “get over” multiple centuries of rape. There’s not enough time to move past the impact of wanton kidnapping. You don’t walk away unscathed and just call it even from witnessing Eric Garner, Emmitt Till, Mike Brown, Eleanor Bumpurs, John Crawford, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Farrell, Jordan Davis type of endings on a regular, daily basis.
You can’t just “move on” when for several hundred years you and everyone who looked like you had have no rights that any White man was is bound to respect.
Not one, single, cotton-picking right. No right to speak. No right to love. No right to anger. No right to work and own the money made from your work. No right to keep your family from literally being sold up the river to some distant plantation. No right to not be beaten any time a White person wanted you to be beaten. No right to not be raped any time a White person wanted to rape you.
Time alone won’t resolve that type of hurt. It won’t heal the wounds racism cause Black people. And time won’t stop our White brothers and sisters from embracing a society where possessing that type over power over Black lives is a birthright.
Because time alone won’t cure White privilege. It only makes it stronger.
When “Progress” Is Regressive
The tree is a product of its roots. We are all historical products. Who we are today is largely the result of choices made by those in the past. One cannot begin birthed in racism and slavery and think one can escape racism’s impact on everything that came after. As noted by Ebony.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux:
The old saying goes that it isn’t hate that is the opposite of love, but rather, indifference…In fact, most times hate and indifference grown by racism are woven together into a seamless, terrible tapestry that smothers my people, renders our cries silent and our needs, invisible.
The more time we act like cops killing unarmed Black men is not related to policing departments that began as slave patrols, the more the wound festers. The longer we ponder solutions that don’t address the fact that violence within our community is related to centuries of having a message of “Black skin is worthless” beaten into our heads the more the wounds seethe.
When we just spend time talking about issues like housing without addressing the decades of racist government policies that intentionally created ghettos for us to rot in, the bigger the injuries get. The more time we tip toe around the fact that this system doesn’t really give a damn whether we live or die, the more likely it is that we will experience more Mike Browns. More John Crawfords. More Renisha McBrides. More Marissa Alexanders. More Eric Garners.
The police reaction in Ferguson and the grand juries in the cases of Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s murder were reminders of what we’ve always intuitively known: this system doesn’t like us very much. It barely tolerates us. And when we try to assert our “rights” this system would rather murder our babies dead in the street, spray protesters with tear gas and shoot rubber bullets at our elders. It would rather pay entire police departments days of overtime pay for “policing” us to hell than it would spend a minute arresting murderous cops.
The Convenience of Racism
White privilege is all about keeping White people comfortable. At all times and in each moment. And as my favorite law professor Derrick Bell used to say, any time the needs of Black people have to be balanced against White interests, Black people will lose.
This country supports racist policies that leave our communities gasping for air like wastelands that time forgot because it’s convenient. We are jailed in cages for longer periods than our White neighbors because it’s convenient. Our children are subjected to inferior education than our White friends’ kids because it’s convenient. We die earlier from preventable diseases because it’s convenient.
We suffer the injuries of racism because it’s more convenient for White people than confronting racism would be. It is convenient to the beneficiaries of White supremacy to keep things as they are. And “time” will not heal that kind of selfish and self-centered wound.
So Now What?
As Black people in general, and naturalistas in particular, we must acknowledge that the natural hair movement has grown a lot over the past few years. As people dedicated to loving and embracing who we are and what we look like, we’ve accomplished a lot.
Our collective voices forced the United States military to repeal most (but not all) of its racist polices against Black hair. When we heard about schools that dared to tell Black girls they couldn’t wear their own hair we took aim, responded in a seemingly coordinated attack and forced those policies to change. Choosing to love our hair has single handedly eviscerated the sales of relaxer companies—something no one would have predicted a few years ago.
It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that even if time is not healing the wounds of racism, operating together, as a unit, we can.
We’re being played y’all. And part of the reason we’re being played is because we have yet to amass our power. We have yet to grasp that as Black [people] operating as a collective, We. Make. Ish. Happen.
The ladies over at Tribe Called Curl hit it on the head when they noted that the natural hair community in the USA alone is comprised of roughly 30 million people. In light of that power Imani writes:
Have you ever considered how powerful we, this group of Black people celebrating our heritage through hair, could be as a group, if we leveraged our community for something beyond banging braid-outs? Imagine what we could accomplish, from rallying for social change to choosing to consciously spend our dollars with businesses invested in Black people’s success.
What if we, this massive group of people who are united in our desire to celebrate our heritage and love our hair were also focused on creating proactive solutions to the myriad problems we face? If we moved beyond conversations that focused solely on apple cider vinegar recipes or twisties versus blow outs discussions?
“The sheer numbers actively participating online, and at meet-ups, conferences, expos and events offer an opportunity to build community on issues other than hair. We have the potential to advocate for change on the level of the Civil Rights movement, and build collective fortunes as storied as Tulsa’s Black Wallstreet.
Really think about that. What if we realized that loving our hair and refusing to compromise is really just an extension (pun fully intended) of loving ourselves and our community? Because in many ways, choosing to love our hair and refusing to compromise our right to be beautiful on our own terms is really a commitment to our right to claim freedom from some of the wounds caused by racism.
We Have to Move This Mountain. And We Can.
The wounds of racism need us to pay attention. They won’t fade with time. They won’t evaporate if a few more Black folks get good jobs. They don’t heal when we clap our hands together and think happy thoughts while we send our kids to integrated schools. The wounds of racism need us to become intentional architects of movements that focus on our needs.
The wounds of racism are far from healed. But that’s ok. Because as naturalistas we have both a massive presence and massive power rooted in loving us as our foundation. Because of that, we no longer have to wait on time. We have us. And if we choose wisely, us is all that we need.
Looking for more thoughts from an Afro State of Mind? Check out my book Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl now available on Amazon.com in paper back or click here to download the e-book! And if you want to stay connected follow me on Twitter, “like” Afro State of Mind on Facebook or catch up on my latest youtube videos!