PTSD: On Trying to Drive and Breathe While Black

I have never served in the Army or Air Force or Marines, but I suffer from PTSD.

The four-letter acronym–meaning Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder–conjures up images of military vets home from war always on edge, jumping at sudden noises, awakening in darkness in cold sweat. Or maybe even “the American Sniper,” back home, unable to sleep or focus, longing to return to war, or the former marine who kills him at a Texas shooting range.

The sight of a police car in my rear view or side view mirror, even a black car or SUV that could potentially be an unmarked police car in my rear view or side view mirror, the sound of sirens while driving (I’ll never understand why rappers think it’s okay to have this as background noise) elicit in me a sense of panic.

Sometimes, the feel of loss of control, sweat secretes on cue, flashbacks of exchanges with police like disparate clips. Sirens like gunshots. Whites of eyes holding a nation’s white imagination. Pulling people over from their cars and brutalizing them without reasonable reasons.

It’s the daily stories of unarmed Black girls and boys, women and men gunned down by white cops like wild game, unlawfully arrested, found dead behind bars. It’s the videos that go viral of young Black men being choked to death on cement, shot with hands in the air.

We are living–and slowly dying–in the words of Claudia Rankine, “because white men can’t/police their imagination.” We are fighting daily what has come to be known as “racial battle fatigue.”

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