Six months ago, the world witnessed a police officer choke a man to death. George Floyd's death ignited protests in every state, protests so large that a crowd of people forced their way onto the White House lawn. As a Black person, I felt the acknowledgement of our pain and fear was long overdue. As I watched several cities in America erupt in demonstrations, I realized that people weren't just upset about George Floyd. A string of police shootings occurred over the summer. From Rayshard Brooks to Jacob Blake, it seemed as if a new name was announced every week. It was the first time the media was really paying attention to and openly acknowledging Black trauma. People across the country refused to be silent and chose to express their anger by relentlessly protesting.
Every day, I wake up and think about my brothers and sisters who have had their lives taken while carrying the fear that I will be next.
But there came a point when the wave of protests started to lose momentum. The images of protesters clashing with police on the news were replaced by footage of front-line workers and election debate coverage. The direct actions being taken to demand justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Blake turned into wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and having "in defense of Black life" profile pictures. It felt as though all of the recognition we had just started to gain over the summer was starting to fade.
I received supportive text messages from friends for about two weeks after Floyd was killed, but I wake up thinking about him every day. There is a deep sense of collective loss and grief over the death of Floyd. Like in the case of Emmett Till, these feelings of loss and grief will become multigenerational and will be passed down to our children and grandchildren in the form of pain, fear, and shame. I cannot speak for all Black people, but I can say that I am still grieving over the killing of Till. I am still grieving over the killing of Taylor. And months later, I am still processing the death of Floyd.
With the death of Floyd and the spread of the coronavirus, the collective grief of Black people has been heightened. Even though the words "Black Lives Matter" are no longer buzz-worthy, that doesn't mean we aren't in pain. Every day, I wake up and think about my brothers and sisters who have had their lives taken while carrying the fear that I will be next. Despite the growing movement for change, I still fear that the police may harm me at any moment. No amount of marches or expressions of allyship can take away my fear of being the next brown face to make headlines.
Americans need to understand that to be Black is to be in a constant state of grief and fear. We carry the weight of hundreds of thousands of people who had their land and lives taken from them. We watch people who look just like us have their lives taken over and over without any form of justice. Black Americans' ability to regain property, build businesses, and even serve in the White House — all while experiencing intergenerational trauma — is a testament to the strength of Black people. But even though we have been successful, it doesn't mean our grief shouldn't be recognized. So take the time to ask your Black friend how they are doing. You'll probably find that they are mentally exhausted and still have Floyd on their mind.