When I was your age the only people I knew were black, and all of them were powerfully, adamantly, dangerously afraid. The fear was there in the extravagant boys of my West Baltimore neighborhood, in their large rings and medallions, their big puffy coats and full-length fur-collared leathers, which was their armor against their world.
They would stand on the corner of Gwynn Oak and Liberty, or Cold Spring and Park Heights, or outside Mondawmin Mall, with their hands dipped in Russell sweats.
I have searched for answers in nationalist myth, in classrooms, out on the streets, and on other continents.
The men who had left his body in the street would never be punished. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying.
It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you.
The greatest reward of this constant interrogation, of confrontation with the brutality of my country, is that it has freed me from ghosts and myths. I feel the fear most acutely whenever you leave me.
But I was afraid long before you, and in this I was unoriginal.
And knowing this, knowing that the Dream persists by warring with the known world, I was sad for the host, I was sad for all those families, I was sad for my country, but above all, in that moment, I was sad for you.