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Brotha Choices

March 25, 2012

A few weeks ago my friend, Marc, wrote what was – at the time – a hilarious series of posts about “brotha choices.”  You see, despite the fact that he is a physician and despite the fact that he was entering his own apartment building, he still had to make the critical decision about whether or not to help a White woman who was face planted in the hallway near his unit.  Marc was the only person around and probably the most qualified person in the immediate surroundings to take care of this woman, but he knows that perceptions matter.  Simply put, if someone turned the corner would it look precarious to see a Black man hovering over a White woman in a building, in the nicer neighborhood?  Could he knock on the door of the nearest apartment without someone thinking he was the one at fault?  Perhaps it’s the vestiges of the torture and unjust death of a 14-year old boy accused of whistling at White woman in Mississippi that create these brotha choices.

Marc could be called an expert in these.  He is an adolescent and pediatric psychiatrist who devotes his days to helping children – many that have survived harsh environments – with good mental health support and by giving them more tools to make the right choices.   And so, with the voices of Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes in his head saying, “Get the **** out of here,” that very caring side of him made the choice instead to help the woman get to her feet.   And then he helped her gather her purse contents that were spread over the hallway – making maybe yet an even more serious brotha choice.  At some point that night she made it in to her apartment, while he escaped safely to his.  Two days later, she passed Marc in the hall, and when he greeted her, she didn’t have the faintest clue who he was.

In recent weeks, I have thought about Marc’s brotha choices several times a day.  Around the same time, the details were breaking about Trayvon Martin’s death.   He was a brave young man who turned around to face his fear and have the faith that showing he was no harm would help him stay safe.   He was first murdered, then he was failed by “law enforcement,” and we still wait and wait and wait and cry out to see if there will be any semblance of justice on his behalf.

Trayvon’s death continues to haunt me and I still haven’t made it through the 911 tapes, though I know the gruesome details.  I regularly go to sleep thinking about his family and him and I wake up hoping that it was a dream.  Many people feel this way, but I know that for many people of color our faith in how to make choices has been shaken to the core.  Parents are holding on to their children just a little bit tighter, happy for the rain that keeps them inside.   I personally have been thinking about my own habits – my sista choices.  Should I walk to the metro today? Or take my car? Oh wait, but that’s not any safer.  I too live in a place where people might not think I belong.  And even President Obama knows that this is ultimately about his beautiful daughters, or the son that might have been.

My friend, Marc, could’ve have easily made the wrong “choice.”  That night the woman who would soon forget him, suggested that he help her break into her apartment saying that “he was a big guy”; he also chose not to let her wait for the locksmith in his apartment.   Before Trayvon’s death was widely known or understood, I remember reading these posts and thinking that if I were the voices inside Marc’s head, I’d tell him to cut and run.  Unfortunately, these choices are not dictated by what is the right thing to do, or even the smart thing to do, they are dictated by the need to stay safe and survive.   But it’s not the 1950s, where a case of wrong took fifty years to reopen.   Sadly, with Trayvon, it’s 2012, and in a world where many would believe we are post-racial, this is also clear cut case, reinforcing the need for our men of color – and now our babies of color – to keep their guards up.  It is a time where the Marcs of the world teach must teach our children to get around in this system that makes them make these brotha choices.

  1. Jamez permalink

    thanks for this, I’m going to share it too

  2. Thanks Jenn

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