With the recent events of the past few days, weeks, months, even; I have given a lot of thought to what it means to be resilient. Why I must be resilient today, tomorrow and every day until my last. In this country it is the only way to survive; at least from my experiences, being an African American man growing up in the South.
Resilience is going outside to hang out with your family, your friends, your neighbors on a stoop or the corner, knowing that you will probably have an unpleasant interaction with the police.
Resilience is my mother sending her son outside to play with full understanding that the neighborhood may not be safe, for any number of reasons. Knowing that no matter with all she's taught him, it may very well be the last time she sees him again.
Being resilient is knowing that you may not have enough money for bills, food, clothes or to take care of your parents when they are sick; and yet you still greet your friends with a smile and reply with "I'm doing well; all things considered."
Resilience is working two jobs just to survive. It’s learning a side hustle; whether it’s doing hair, or lawn care, selling CDs, oils, catering, or charging to host social events with loud music as a temporary distraction and serving alcohol to numb the pain of the harsh reality which is your life.
Resilience is getting up every morning going to work for a company that undervalues you and underpays you but expects you to be on time every day as scheduled; to give them 100% effort. Knowing that you don't have the luxury to quit and pursue your passions or your dreams; but you get up the next day anyway. Suck it up; and do it all over again because that’s the only way you know how to make an honest living.
Resilience is having the audacity to buy a luxury vehicle even a used one knowing that you will be stopped, questioned and often search without any other probable cause other than driving while black.
Being resilient is being told indirectly or directly that you’re not qualified, you don’t have the credentials, that you’re not good enough, and that your black life doesn’t matter. Despite that, you improvise, survive and still find a way to rise.
Resilience is trying to climb from the bottomless pit of poverty, grasping at every clump of dirt or rock no matter how jagged its edge while desperately trying to pull yourself up. Slowly, carefully, with unsteady footing; mindful that one misstep could sending you tumbling back to where you started or even worse; lower than before. Resilience is knowing that you've fallen before, survived and are willing do it again and again if you must, just to escape.
Resilience is looking up from just below the edge and seeing mostly white faces looking back down on you with disdain for your soiled shoes, the grit lodged between your fingernails from your impossible climb, as they continue to walk by with willful ignorance.
Resilience is knowing that if you're ever fortunate enough to make it out, that you're still standing too close to the edge to feel safe; that this was only the first level and what awaits you is yet another uphill climb. That those glaring eyes you saw before looking down upon you are joined by many more, perched even higher than theirs; eyes that peer through shaded lenses that only see you as black, brown, or other.
Resilience is knowing all that and you still keep going, keep climbing; knowing that even if you graduate at the top of your class with a Harvard law degree and go on to become President of the United States, you're still not good enough to be seen as equal, but instead… still, as other. It's seeing your brothers and sisters, your people, your culture, savaged, exploited, discredited by a nation that continues to deny that slavery had any impact on today's present conditions. Helplessly watching as they are slain, assassinated, murdered and lynched by racist police, only to be told to be peaceful, respectful of the law, our social pact; or run the risk as being seen as an angry black man or disgruntled.
Resilience is knowing I might be next, and you still take a stand, speak out, march, protest during a global pandemic to resist the forces that seek to keep you oppressed.
Resilience is working together to empower those who choose not to look away with the knowledge, insight and the communication skills to have these courageous conversations with their European brothers and sisters; about the truth of the systemic racial, criminal injustice and economic inequality that thrives in this country today.
Resilience is not just refusing to look away but challenging all that don't look like us to truly see us, hear us, join in our outcries for justice and equality. It's refusing to return to the status quo.
Resilience is knowing that these conversations are clumsy and uncomfortable, that the process is often ugly and volatile. That it is an inconvenient truth that in this country, this is the only way change ever happens. But change will come... and WE are how!
Stay vigilante; be resilient and we shall overcome!