The last two days have been a whirlwind.
Whereas last Friday was spent celebrating a life well lived in Aretha Franklin, this Friday was spent mourning the lives of people gone too soon.
On September 7, a Dallas police officer murdered a man in his own apartment because she “thought he was in her house”. Those were the early reports, at least. Since the initial word came out, further details seem to confirm what many of us expected from the jump:
This whole thing is foul.
The Dallas Police Department confirmed that the off-duty, but still uniformed, officer was on the wrong floor when she opened fire on Botham Shem Jean. Neighbors reported that not only was the officer yelling for Jean to open the door before firing her weapon, but also that she knew Jean.
A warrant was issued for the officer on a manslaughter charge and the community was outraged at the low-level nature of the charge. Unfortunately, it would only get worse. The Texas Rangers canceled the warrant, reportedly because the officer was cooperative and they were investigating what they learned upon interviewing her.
Imagine being able to kill an unarmed man in his own apartment, being able to go home after instead of being held in custody, and then having the media push the narrative about how distraught you are about the situation.
Watch Whiteness Work.
I feel off balance. My emotions are wavering between anger and numbness. The usual heaviness I tend to experience in these situations is there, but it feels so hollow. This is the reality of watching a steady stream of Black bodies dying at the hand of state violence.
We can’t even be in our own fucking houses?
Keep an eye on the details of the #BothamShemJean case, and keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. Then, be sure to check on your loved ones. This is a difficult time of the year already for so many people, but situations like these weigh on the emotional and mental well-being of the Culture. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need to, and don’t wait for your loved ones to reach out either. Check on your “strong” friends, the ones who push through obstacles and are always there for other people. If we needed a reminder of why this is so important, we need only look to yesterday’s other piece of tragic news.
When my students came to my office and told me that 26-year-old rapper Mac Miller died of an overdose, I was shocked. He had just released a new album and was going on tour. This hurt too, not because I was the biggest fan, but because I appreciated him as someone who genuinely loved the music, was working on his artistry, and wasn’t a culture vulture like a lot of these other folks.
Mac Miller might not have been Black, but this issue of turning to coping mechanisms that can kill us is one that extends far past racial designations. We need to push conversations and real solutions for mental wellness, counseling and therapy. We’re losing people too soon. He should still be here with us, and he isn’t the only one.
It’s also important to recognize our own limitations as we interact with loved ones struggling with mental and emotional wellness or depression. Sometimes our love, prayers and support isn’t enough. Too often we try to put our loved ones on our backs, and find ourselves in unhealthy situations that we don’t feel we should or can leave.
If you aren’t trained or equipped to do this work, don’t take this on without the right support. And don’t blame people for recognizing they can’t keep themselves well while supporting someone. The blame that Ariana Grande is receiving for Mac Miller’s death is disgusting. This isn’t her burden to bear. Mac Miller was struggling before they began dating, and staying with him during a time where he wasn’t in position to cope in a way that was healthy for both of them would have only made things worse. For both of them.
Too often we stay in unhealthy situations because we don’t know how to balance loyalty with our mental and emotional wellbeing. Maybe it isn’t substance abuse that is causing a relationship to be toxic, maybe it’s an inability to disagree without things turning vindictive. Maybe it’s an extreme level of jealousy. All of those things can weigh on us, but in the words of Sue Tsai “You deserve a beautiful life”.
Between these two deaths, it seems like there is too much going on in the world, especially with Botham Shem Jean being murdered here in Dallas. But stay encouraged, Good People. Things are tough, but what we know for sure is that God clearly ain’t done with niggas yet. If He was, we’d be extinct already.
Lord knows, they’ve tried.
There are resources for counseling and addiction below. Please share and reach out to these outlets if you or someone you know is struggling, and send us any resources you know of that aren't listed. We don’t need stigma anymore, we need movement.
Lauren Whiteman is from Dallas, she eats Rudy’s, it’s been a while since she’s been to Big T though. She has a couple of degrees from the University of Oklahoma and is now an educator in the Dallas area. Lauren’s work focuses on advocacy, student development, and the miseducation of Black and African American students in higher education. She’s a TEDx presenter and hopes future generations never forget what to do for the 99 and the 2000. For her twitter shenanigans, visit @itsmewhiteman.