We are human.
I truly appreciate the kind words that I have received for the work that I do in the Penn community, and the thoughts that I share on Facebook and Twitter about that work.
But sometimes, I think that people forget that I am Black. I have heard people refer to my politics as “leftist,” as “liberal,” as “activist.” But really, my politics are identity politics. They are a politics of self, that grow from my desire to survive, to see my family survive, both current and future. And I’m including all Black people in this, even the ones who don’t want to be included.
When I say survive, I don’t just mean surviving physically, although that is part of it. Because yes, my heart stops when I make eye contact with a police officer away from the center of campus. I also mean emotionally and mentally. I have no doubt that the anxiety I live with is caused first and foremost by my deep awareness of my race and gendered position in the American hierarchy. I fight, through words and through community building, to keep the fire inside of me stoked, so that anxiety and the depression that accompanies it don’t consume me.
I can honestly say that I am happy. But that was not always the case. My love of Blackness did not always provide an adequate buffer against the raw reality that my Blackness is hated.
So I almost didn’t click this link, to read about the sad death of MarShawn McCarrel. Not because I didn’t care, but because it hits too close to home. We are humans. Activists are human beings that live in the world they are fighting to better. They are soldiers on a front line. And some of them…many of them may succumb. No one should be surprised that the same people fighting the war are the first to die at its hands.
So, I think that next time you or I feel the compulsion to thank people like MarShawn for their service, I hope we remember to thank them for their humanity. And ask them how they’re doing. How they’re coping.
Rest in Truth, MarShawn.