Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem entitled, “We Wear the Mask”. It reads:
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Today, many of us put on our masks again as video of another unarmed Black person is broadcast across TV and internet. Again, city officials appear on television to beg and plead for calm. Again families are faced with the loss of a loved one. Again we are expected to show up to work like these tragedies do not impact us.
So I pen this article for everyone getting dressed for work, who are putting on their masks. For every student who is not only carrying the textbooks to improve their minds, but who also bear the weight of this reality of their backs. For everyone who wept this morning because they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. For man and woman whose emotions are boiling over because the pressure of frustration has them swinging wildly at the phantoms of racism and brutality which haunt them every news cycle.
To those who are ignorant to our hurt, pain, anguish, despair, tears, and rage because we have managed to subdue it behind our masks of Blackness. I say you… just try and understand. Don’t dare touch the mask today. What you need to know is, emotions are running high for a variety of reasons. Everyone is experiencing and expressing these emotions in various ways. Just attempt to understand the collective grieving that we endure when we see people who look like us, murdered by those who are meant to protect us. Try to reconcile the actions of athletes and politicians who are refusing to stand for the anthem, when you Black bodies laying in pools of innocent blood.
Today is another day in Black America, when we are reminding that freedom and equality are only ideals. The actual application of these principles come from the work and will of the people. As it has become very apparent, we will not continue to sit quietly while men, women, and children… let me say that again… and children… are murdered… AND their killers get to remain free, paid, and unprosecuted. The ideal that justice is blind, remains only an ideal until it is acted upon but those who have sworn themselves to uphold those laws.
Again today we wear our masks. Dented and scarred… stained by blood and tears… we conceal our true selves because it is what is expected by some and needed by others.
These dark days will not break us. Our spirits may bend as we struggle with another death in our community, but our spirits will never be broken. They can never be broken. Be strong people, we will endure. We share overcome. The revolution will not be televised, but it will be LiveTweeted!