Posted on April 22, 2021

Being Black in America Is Exhausting

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post, April 17, 2021

“Everyone I know is just so tired,” tweeted Jenna Wortham of the New York Times Magazine on Wednesday. While the Black writer doesn’t specify who “everyone” is, it’s a good bet they are also Black. And Wortham’s use of “tired” is an understatement.

“Tired” doesn’t just refer to the trauma of the Derek Chauvin trial or seeing replays of the video of the former Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd. Nor does “tired” just refer to seeing Daunte Wright being shot by a Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer after being pulled over because of an air freshener dangling from his rearview mirror, as his mother has said. Or because of expired tags, as the police said. No, “tired” is all of that, plus whatever personal trauma we carry with us.

There is no one way to be Black in America, but there is one way we live while Black in America. No matter our gender, age or socioeconomic status, we are viewed as threats. As a result, we live under siege.

Oh, we do a good job of hiding the stress of it all. But know this: Every Black person you know goes through some form of mental calculus before they start their day. And then that calculus is adjusted depending on the locations and circumstances in which we find ourselves at any given time.

My mother taught me the first few pieces of this calculus when I was a kid. Don’t run in public. Don’t run in public with anything in your hands. Don’t talk back to the police. As I got older, that calculus grew in length and psychological weight. {snip}


Even before covid-19, I maintained a social distance, never walking directly behind anyone, especially a White woman. Before I pass at my brisk pace, I always do a shuffle step to alert them to my presence. That’s assuming I don’t cross the street or take a different route to avoid that whole thing altogether. I do the same when having to pass by an open-air bar featuring large groups of White men and alcohol.


The one comfort I take in this harrowing time is that fewer White people will write off what I listed above as petty or paranoid. They’ve seen the videos. They’ve heard the wails of distraught families and angry communities. And they are starting to understand the contours of our pain. {snip}