Right now, I am feeling all the feelings. I am feeling the entire spectrum of feelings from rage, anger, and betrayal to the other end where love, grace, and mercy resides. Each part of who I am holds and houses it’s own unique set of emotions and they are simultaneously being experienced by me right now.
The Many Layers
The Black man has his set of feelings. The father of three Black sons has his set of feelings. The professional that I am has his set of feelings. The Christian that I am has his set of feelings. The knowledge of Christ’s path to and process on the Cross for someone like me brings it’s own set of feelings. And, the reality that my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, and the many generations before me endured worse brings it’s own feelings. Watching and seeing another Black man, another person of color, murdered by a fellow citizen who animilized, criminalized, and minimized a man because of the color of his skin has generated a plethora of responses within me.
What is the treatment for this? What is the treatment for simultaneous primary, secondary, and tertiary grief and truama? What is the message for the families and these communities? What do you say when someone walks in your office and say people are following me? I have to always look over my shoulder? I’m afraid someone is after me? I’m afraid for my life? I’m afraid to leave my home because someone may not value my humanity? Is this paranoia? Or, is this a reality? There is no psychotropic for this.
Let’s briefly dive into types of trauma. There’s primary, secondary, and tertiary trauma. Primary is when events directly happens to a person. Secondary is when there is a relationship with individuals that have experienced primary and direct events. And, tertiary is when there are two or more buffers between those who experienced events and those witnessing the events.
I am feeling all of these.
I fear primary due to being a Black man. I fear secondary because I am the father of Black boys, the husband of a Black wife, the son of Black parents, and in a number of other relationships with Black men and women that are close to me. I am experiencing tertiary because of the murder of a life by a fellow citizen in his neighborhood. I walk, run, ride my bike through out my neighborhood with my sons. And all of this is compounded by the reality that those in power originally protected those who committed the murderous act. It is a norm that should not be. I am saddened and enraged. I do not know whether to fight, mourn, or to stop caring.
The skill of acceptance requires action. It is not the position that things are “okay”, because things are not “okay”. It requires some course of direction and strategy. There is a course of emotional shutdown. There is a course of militancy. There is a course of activism. There are several directions one can take when navigating acceptance. My go to during these types of moments are versions of grace/mercy, “that’s just the way things are”, and/or “let me do my part”. Each of these are becoming more difficult to do because Black men and women are constantly being murdered over and over and over again for the most mundane acts of life and living. I do not want to accept my process of acceptance. But, what else am I going to do?
This is where my soul remembers how dark, unruly, wicked, and vile my heart is without the work of Faith in my life. It speaks to all of what I am feeling, screams “this is not normal”, reinforces “keep doing your part”, highlights “there are good people out there”, and says over and over “do not fear”. The remembrance of those who endured chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and the various systems put in place to keep them down for me speaks loudly “keep pressing towards the mark of the higher calling”.