Forgive me, loyal readers, for this is the most selfish diatribe I’ll ever write. Sure, most of my posts are flavored with my spin. That’s what makes them fun (for me). But this, this is different. I’m supposed to write about Prime, or maybe Azrael at this point. Whatever. I’m not saying they’re not important. I’m not saying they’re not worth the keystrokes. But what I am saying is, my head is in a completely different space right now. It would be disingenuous for me not to use this platform in the way I need to. I’m trying to process my own mental state as a psychiatrist in a world that I know has segments that don’t want me. Pure rejection in a way that I pray I never have to face for my life. Does anyone understand what I mean? This isn’t new. I’ve always had this fear.
Somehow, by the time I was a teenager, it became a fun game. No, really! I loved to count how many store clerks/managers would track me in a store aisle by isle (hint: if it’s a big store you can throw them off by standing next to one of the mid-isle displays and double back). I am thankful that I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve had police interactions directed towards me, and they were all civil (only one I can truly consider a DWB incident, and he dropped it as soon as I mentioned I was going to work at a hospital). Once in a while I’ll have a series of emails or phone conversations and when the person sees what I look like they are in shock (Surprise! I’m not white!) True, the one assault I’ve had as a physician was a patient breaking a rib because he thought I was in a black gang that attacked him…but he was experiencing a psychotic episode. I can’t blame him, can I?
I have been so careful my whole life to not put myself in situations that would cause harm to those around me. I’ve thought about the idea that, If I were ever asked to get on my knees and/or put my hands up by a cop, I would go beyond that basic step and lay flat to demonstrate my docile nature. Then I had to watch that godforsaken video. I have revised my tactical strategy to simply say “yes officer but I don’t want to die. I am unarmed” and do my best to stay in my vehicle. This is all irrational, I know. Except, I saw it happen. I can’t unsee it. Then I remember all of those other cases. I could be at home. I could be with friends. I could be jogging. I could be helping a person with special needs. All it takes is one person in a position of authority to identify a black man in an escalated situation as a threat, and I’m erased from existence.
I think back to the fact that I love history. I try to wrap my head around the cognitive dissonance of creating an independent nation with the question of if slaves should be counted as people. I think of the development of laws limiting the ability of black people to own property…after black people were treated as property. I think of the records that show just how scrutinized any attempt at African American independence became (Durham, Tulsa, Jackson Ward), and how they are permanently scarred by racist violence. I think of the vitriol that spews forth the second that any complaint (that’s what protests are, complaints) is viewed as inconvenient. The narrative always has to shift, right? But, I thought that was the point. Protests are inconvenient. They’re challenges to the status quo. They are an attempt to have questions answered that a group of people think are being ignored.
I can have a loud voice, but I won’t yell. Not this time. I cry every time I try to yell right now (damn, I really do think it’s acute stress). But I want the civil discourse. No name-calling, no shaming (unless you’ve brought it upon yourself). What can be done about authoritarian violence that impacts an obvious segment of the population so fewer people die? That’s the question that nobody wants to sit down and propose answers to. I think that’s my experiment from now on. Whether it’s a knee at a football game, or a fist in the air, or tear gas at a rally, when someone brings it up, I’m going to stop falling for the same emotional trap. I’m simply going to ask that question. If anyone wants to answer, then I hope it will educate me. If they don’t want to talk about it, then I know where they stand. I’m an adult, it’s okay. I don’t need everyone to jump into those deep waters. I’ve been swimming in it my whole life.
~ Doctor Issues