It was a normal Thursday afternoon. Around 3, I glanced over at my phone, a text from my fiancé came in, “have you seen this?” she asked with a picture attached to the text. I unlocked my phone to view the picture. A Victoria Secret Pink store with the headline – Woman Shot at Easton Town Center. Two thoughts immediately rushed through my head. The first – a shooting at the mall? The second – I hope they weren’t black.
Odds are, if you’re black you’ve seen a story in the news at one time or another, processed how ridiculous or sad the headline is and thought to yourself – I hope it wasn’t a black person that did this. It’s almost a reflex at times. An hour went by, I checked Twitter, saw the tweet below and realized my hopes went unfulfilled.
When you’re black, you wake up every morning with your hands full. You get ready to go out into the world with the flag of your family in one hand and the flag of the black race in the other. It’s just the way it is, I have to represent one and all. When I was growing up, I don’t recall ever having a detailed conversation with my parents regarding my responsibility to be a representative for the entire race each and every time I’m in public, but inherently, it’s a burden I feel daily. If I’m walking down the street, working in the office, exercising at the gym or wherever I may be I always feel – family flag in this hand, black flag in the other.
So when I see headlines like – Woman Shot at Easton Town Center, I process that knowing - that a lot of people in the world, see these kind of altercations in public places as just what young black people do.
I listened to a Freakonomics podcast recently on the topic of – Why Is My Life So Hard? In the episode, they examined the difference between headwinds and tailwinds. Using the example of a runner on a windy day they described how when the wind is at our face (headwind) it is all we can think about, we complain about in our mind, it makes us feel more tired and run down, and we just want the wind at our back. However when we get the tailwind we desired, it doesn’t dominate our mind nearly as long as the “adverse” headwind did.
Today’s shooting was a headwind. These are the events “they” will hold up to say – See! I knew it! It’s the smoking gun for some, and Kermit’s tea for others. It’s the quick gust that they’ll think about time after time, ignoring all the tailwinds that blow day after day.
In his writing, Stephen Covey talked about the importance of separating the action from the individual. The importance of being able to set apart what someone did from who they are, because every action will not be in line with a person’s character. In other words, if I do something deemed wrong one today, that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person every day. To scale that out to race - just because one black person did something horrible, that does not represent who we are. That being said, why do I still pick up the flag every day? Why do I calculate how my actions will be interpreted in the office? Why do I notice a woman shifting herself and her child as I walk down the sidewalk? I guess because a lot of people didn’t read Stephen Covey.
I tried to figure out why this bothered me so much. Maybe because I live in the area. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Maybe it’s because I’m from Cleveland and can remember the fall of Randall Park Mall. Maybe it’s because I overthink and read too much into things. Maybe it’s because this was so dumb and so senseless that I can’t process it. Maybe it’s because I know the net effect it will have. To be honest, it’s probably a combination of all those things.
I know this post probably won’t get a lot of views or shares, but that wasn’t my intent. I wrote this more for me than I did for you. I just know at the end of the day, I want us to represent ourselves the way we do the majority of days. To stop giving them headlines and ammunition, to be just like the tailwind.