I’m still processing Saturday’s mass and targeted shootings in Buffalo, committed by a racist who took 10 Black lives and wounded three others. What I keep thinking about is the toll of resilience.
In the news coverage, I watched how people, just hours from running for their lives, got on camera and talked about what they heard and saw. I listened to a story about the former fire commissioner whose 86-year-old mother was murdered after visiting her husband in a nursing home and how the commissioner can’t bear to tell his father that his wife is gone. I heard about a mother and daughter both working at the supermarket, telling their survival story. I heard about an 8-year-old hiding in a freezer.
And then there’s the talk about Buffalo being a strong city and how the community will come back. I think about what that takes, the coming back.
What makes up the coming back? After two years of a pandemic that has killed a million people in America and has disproportionately killed Black and brown people. Even before this, Black Americans endured 10 times the gun homicides and 18 times the gun assault injuries than white Americans. That supermarket, Tops Friendly Markets, now temporarily closed, is said to be the only grocery store in a three- to five-mile radius. Buffalo is one of the top 20 most segregated cities in the country.
That means the community has been coming back and coming back and coming back.
How do we measure the effects of that?
Sure, logically, I know anything can happen at any time; tomorrow, we’re always told, isn’t promised. But does that mean it’s healthy to go back into the supermarket, pushing down the fear that at any moment someone could be plotting your death because they think you’re going to replace them? Am I having a healthy response when I think that at gatherings, where I’m already planning my mask approach, now I have to be sure to look for the exits, maybe even position myself near them at all times? If a white male I don’t know walks in, is avoidance or fear OK until I know for sure?
There are so many scourges in our nation happening at once that it’s hard to focus; they’re coming at us hard and fast. Yet here’s another: Mental health. If we’re worn and we’re tired and we’re overwhelmed, it doesn’t seem we can grapple with all the others.
I’ve learned how to absorb this kind of news and then go numb, metaphorically pulling the covers over my head to protect myself, peeking out every once in a while to see if it’s safe.
But that’s the thing: I don’t know when it’s safe.
Adrienne Johnson Martin is executive editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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