Richard Taylor gives a glimpse into the thoughts of a black man in post-Ferguson America.
Am I next? This is a question that I’ve asked myself countless times over the last few months. Every time I walk out of my house … every time I pull off in my car … every time I hit the road to speak across the country … this question runs across my mind and obtains a first place position in my thoughts.
But now it’s no longer just a thought, it’s a haunting daymare that plays on repeat without a stop button anywhere in sight. When I moved back to Chicago after college, “Am I Next?” was a question I would ask myself due to the amount of random gun violence that takes place.
However, my mind is no longer plagued by the idea of my body being pierced by a random bullet. My thoughts are squarely centered on a when and where a bullet with my name on will leave an officer’s gun.
As I dive deeper into my thoughts, I ponder: how will the headlines read? How would they treat my body? What story will the officer tell the public? What excuse will they come up with to justify the homicide?
I pause and think deeper: I’ve never done drugs, I don’t drink, I’m not in a gang, I don’t have a criminal record, I’m not perfect, but I work to live a good life. I suspend my thoughts for the embrace of reality and realize none of my truths matter, because we live in a world with great storytellers that will spin the facts surrounding my death and somehow make it my fault.
Despite my thoughts, I keep telling myself, “Richard its okay … you know how to handle yourself with the police … you’ve done it plenty of times before and it always ends with a smile.” But what if the next time the officer doesn’t have a smile? What if he’s having a f*cked up day and I’m just the right color at the right time?
Stay with me I’m still in my thoughts … and I have so many of them: how easily a traffic stop can go wrong. What could they plant on me? God forbid I’m in the car with my wife taking a relaxing drive. If those blue and red lights went off behind us … would she end up like Thandie Newton did in the movie Crash? That sh*t messes me up every time I think about that scene.
“Focus Richard,” I tell myself … you’re not like the others. You’re an established author … a dynamic speaker … a leader for the next generation … they won’t treat you like that at all. These are the lies I keep telling myself to stay sane in a country where human beings in black and brown skin have to always ask: “Am I Next?”
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B.O.L.D member Richard Taylor, considered the voice of Chicago, is an activist, best-selling author and motivational speaker. Mr. Taylor’s newest book, entitled “Between the Dream,” is available for purchase on his website.