Five years ago you’d find me at every protest, donned in protest gear and equipped with signs, screaming and chanting about the injustices faced by my people. This put me in a strange space of rage, mixed with the hope and energizing space of hundreds of people showing up for the same cause. At one point, it seemed like every day, there was some new hashtag and new protest to go to. I remember signing off, not with the victim’s name, but with #AnotherDayAnotherHashtag. The once flaming anger wasn’t enough.
I eventually stopped going to these protests. I stopped sharing the news. I stopped interacting with the reality around me.The protests that spurred from the murder of Michael Brown weren’t even settled before Tamir Rice was taken from us and his family. He was 12.
I thought, maybe if I can’t attend the protests, I’ll share the realities with my students and bring them into our classroom. We’ll intellectualize the pain as a way of distancing ourselves from it, because knowledge is power, and we have to make sure they know the depth of institutional racism and prejudice.
During my mini social justice unit centered around The Hate U Give, I taught about the origins of Black Lives Matter. As I clicked ‘next’ on my powerpoint slides, they displayed a picture of Trayvon Martin smiling in his father’s embrace, an image we should have in our minds when we think of and teach about him. In an instant, this image took my breath away and I wept in front of my class. It was then that I decided that I wasn’t going to do what everyone around me, and what a supposed social justice pedagogy says that I had to do. I wasn’t going to make my kids read and encounter the trauma that even I couldn’t muster enough strength to get through.
The output of rage channeled into the political act of protesting was once supposedly freeing, but instead began to trap me in a cycle filled with the futility of hope. So yesterday, when the news broke, and everyone rushed out onto the streets saying a new name, I put down my phone, ignored the images, and sat with my own pain, away from it all.
I don’t need to share information and refuse to retweet videos. I live its reality every time my uncle empties his pockets when he walks into a store just in case, when a police officer pulls over my father and instinctively grabs his gun just in case, when I look out at the sea of young, brown faces in my classroom. I didn’t go to the protests yesterday, I didn’t go today, and I won’t go tomorrow because I can’t.
I choose to be numb because it’s the only way I can survive.
My city is on fire.
And his name was George Floyd.
Jasmine first published this piece here at Medium.