Sunday, February 16, 2014

On a disturbingly regular basis...

You know that scene in the movie Love Actually?

The one where Emma Thompson goes into the bedroom she shares with her husband, after having found proof that he’s likely cheating on her, and collects herself so that she can go to the Holiday event at her children’s school without freaking them the hell out?


I repeat a scene much like that…on a pretty regular basis.

Not because I’m in a relationship with someone who is unfaithful.

Or maybe I am…in a way.

I repeat that scene…a deliberate pause, tears threatening and heart pumping, followed by a visible resolve to soldier through despite the pain…on a disturbingly regular basis, because I live in a country where a black man is seen as a threat simply for being a black man.

Longtime readers know a bit about my brother…that he is the older of my two older siblings and he has autism. He is aphasic, and he makes loud funky noises…he gets excited when he likes a song and he twirls and dances.  He looks “normal”…a lot younger than his 43 years, but still “normal” in presentation if not behavior.

So, I know that his behavior could get him beat up or shot.

He likes to look in car windows.

He doesn’t understand “the rules.”

He likes people…and the smell of freshly washed hair or French fries on someone’s plate.

We work on it with him…we watch him closely.

Because we live in a country where black men get shot and killed for seeking help after a car accident…or refusing to turn down music…or walking home after going to the corner store.

I don’t know how to guide him.

I just don’t know what to do!

Do I tell him to seek help if he gets lost?

Do I tell him to find a police officer?

What will happen when he can’t speak or explain?

Will strangers try to understand?

Or will they open fire and ask questions later?

And so, on a regular basis…at least once a week, and sometime more often than that…I find myself in the bathroom preparing to go to work and I pause to grab the counter, take several deep breathes and then smoothing my hands down the front of my outfit.

I breathe in.

Exhale.

Repeat.

Because I have to go about my day despite the anxiety and fear.

I don’t want to become that sister who won’t approve any community outings. I've come up with this ritual so that my brother can have some semblance of a life despite the world we live in and the dangers it presents.

Breath in.

Exhale.

Grab car keys…tell self to move forward.

Walk, damn it.

Drive.

Get out of car.

Smile.

Greet others.

Please, please, please…oh, please.

Log on and check email.

Lord, I give him up to you…again…always.

Work.

At least once a week, and lately far more often than that.

Sigh.

So much has changed and so much remains the same.
"In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky—her grand old woods—her fertile fields—her beautiful rivers— her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked, my joy is soon turned to mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal spirit of slaveholding, robbery and wrong,— when I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing, and led to reproach myself that any thing could fall from my lips in praise of such a land. America will not allow her children to love her. She seems bent on compelling those who would be her warmest friends, to be her worst enemies. May God give her repentance before it is too late, is the ardent prayer of my heart. I will continue to pray, labor and wait, believing that she cannot always be insensible to the dictates of justice, or deaf to the voice of humanity."
Frederick Douglass to William Lloyd Garrison - January 1, 1846