State of Black America

by Mariama Gregory

“What is the state of Black America?” she asks me. At first I don’t have full sentences but what immediately comes to my mind is, tired, angry, awakening, frightened, confused, learning, inspired, moved, bold, strong.

In my office, there is a youth group that convenes here once a week. I often have conversations with them, they make me laugh, I enjoy hearing about their plans for graduating high school and the excitement of them getting into college. In the midst of all of this I often look at them and think, “Are they next?” What danger lies ahead when they get on the bus to leave here? During the weekends, when they’re just being youthful, what kind of altercations could end their lives? This always makes me think of my younger cousins whom roam Arizona streets where being profiled isn’t unusual. My friends whom are educated, loving, supportive, and family orientated who are often stopped, frisked, or dodging bullets in their communities.

As a young, female, Black, American, I feel like we’re starting to pick up where the 60’s and 70’s left off. With the elimination of prominent leaders, the Black Panther party, the war on drugs, and the prison industrial complex we lost a lot of momentum in the movement. Through impoverished communities, lack of education, the degradation of family values, we never got to finish a mission of full freedom in this country that is equal to our oppressors. The marching slowed down, the focus shifted, and the narrative of our lives from our voices got drowned out because of the Vietnam War. By the time the war had ended and the surviving soldiers had come home, the civil rights movement became hushed and we seemed to have settled for the annulment of ‘separate but equal’ and affirmative action.

Through all of this, I believe the state of Black America is living in permanent fear. It’s a reality we’re all facing now that the digital world has connected local black experiences to ones that are national. We’ve made what was once shared and understood only amongst black people visible globally. I even will go as far as to say, there are black people who have made themselves believe that police brutality was only something that happened to drug dealers and criminals. Now that the reality has become visual and the lives often taken are not the typical stereotype, we’re not only reacting but the world is watching. This fear has been instilled and living through us for generations.

Realistically, since Black people was forced to the United States of America stacked on boats and made to work for free, there has never been a point in time where we had the luxury of just living without fear. We live in a state of fear for our lives. Not only against violence but also through the lack of healthcare and economic oppression such as, being unemployed and access to affordable housing. We’re literally in a state of feeling a tightening noose around our throats without clear vision of how to save ourselves. You have a generation who is carrying the load of ancestral slave mentality, the foundation of the civil rights movement, and the extremely broken generation prior. We’ve come to a place where we can no longer watch the noose slowly pulling because we’re more educated than ever and more aware that we’re becoming an endangered species. We are in a place where we are told our good is not good enough while blindly being robbed of our incredible power.  There is no room to be just ‘okay’ with the curators of this countries and global culture yet afraid to exist. At this point, we are in a state of mind that says, “What do we have to lose?”