The Weight of Centuries

I’m participating in Stream of Consciousness Sunday. This is where you write about whatever comes to mind based on a prompt by the host, Jana. Or you can write about the topic of your choice. I’m going to use Jana’s prompts. You just write for five minutes, no editing or spellchecking. As one who used to edit for a living, that is going to be impossible. I’ll give it a good shot, though.

Today’s (totally optional) prompt: Free Writing, Baby!

The George Zimmerman acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin left me unable to fall asleep until 1:00 in the morning. I woke up feeling better and more positive, but still a bit anguished. I’ve had to remove myself from social media for today and the next few days because the level of vitriol, ignorance, and anger coming from all sides makes me feel sad.
There are people who simply don’t get why so many black people feel angry today. They don’t understand why many of us don’t just accept the jury’s decision and move on. They have no idea that our anger is based on our long history of injustice in this country. Yes, it’s about Trayvon Martin, but it’s about so much more.
On September 15, 1963, my first cousin (my mother’s brother’s daughter), Carol Denise McNair, was one of four little girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. I never knew her–she was killed 12 years before I was born–but I am thinking of her and her friends today. I’m thinking of all the men, women, and children whose lives were unjustly sacrificed.
As humans, our feelings and emotions are formed by our experiences. It is with the history in my own family that I think of Trayvon Martin and what I feel was a miscarriage of justice. You may not agree with my feelings, but they are mine and I get to own them.
I’m going to close with thoughts that my Facebook friend, Precious Muhammad, wrote on her wall last night. I think it beautifully and eloquently explains how I feel. They are her words, but I feel like she was reading my mind.
“Feels like the weight of centuries on my chest, we’re still suffering from the weight of centuries. Takes your breath away and you have to tell yourself: Breathe! Trayvon died carrying the weight of centuries, black youth die in Chicago (and other parts of USA) carrying the weight of centuries. It’s almost evil to pretend that weight isn’t there, that it’s not a part of the equation. We are a people who were LITERALLY castrated; hung from trees in front of mobs of people, including children; bombed in churches; shot in our front yards; dragged behind cars by ropes and chains; sold on auction blocks, naked with no regard to our right to dignity; ripped from our mothers’ bosoms while they were forced to care for their slave masters’ children; packed like sardines on slave ships and forced to wallow in our own excrement; our NAMES, our RELIGIONS, our CULTURE ripped away from us; forced to eat the worst parts of foods from the master, that negatively affect our health even today: let’s call this the legacy; refused education and beat for trying to educate ourselves; maimed and killed for running to freedom; we couldn’t even fully vote less than 50 years ago without getting beat down with dogs sicked on us and on and on and on and on. This is our American history. Do you not think it would have a devastating impact on our communities even today? Please, I don’t want to hear anybody say anything about how they can’t understand why black people are upset today. We have the weight of centuries on our chest, the weight of centuries.”

3 responses

  1. I remember reading the date that the four girls were killed in Birmingham the first time and thinking that was just a few months after I was born. So that was almost 50 years ago. Hard for me to believe that such hatred existed and still divides. I was never raised or taught or allowed to be around such. I know that doesn’t help anything. But I do understand why you must feel such anguish.

    1. Jamie, forgive my late reply. I actually did reply on my phone; apparently, that didn’t work out! Actually, it helps to know that you and many, many others don’t condone such hatred. It gives me hope in our shared humanity. As always, thanks for stopping by!

  2. […] killed in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. In a blog post on Sunday, she wrote that she felt like I was reading her mind when she read my […]

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