I spent the days leading up to the grand jury announcement to not indict Darren Wilson trying to write about anything but my feelings. “How do I feel?” was a new and dangerous question.
You see, a part of functioning successfully — that is to say, surviving — as a young, black man in America is not feeling. To feel would mean to be constantly enraged, anxious, naively hopeful, or worse, to feel out of control. And if America demands anything of black people it’s that we be in or under control. The only alternatives are prison and death. Tamir Rice,Akai Gurley, Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo — all threats, all recent reminders of that.
It’s constant work to cultivate and maintain the layers of insulation needed to exist in such a state a terror. Attaining the American Dream becomes not just about personal fulfillment, or even the accumulation of wealth, but survival. Every rung on the socioeconomic ladder promises distance from harm — even if it can’t guarantee it. So, you climb with the sound of chomping below you and pray that each step you take is steady and sure. You work, you don’t feel.