The weight of all forms of American racism on Black people – African, American, Afro-Latinx, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Caribbean – on Indigenous peoples, on people of colour with proximity to Blackness (collectively, BIPOC) is often overwhelming.
At sea level, the Earth’s atmosphere exerts 14.7 pounds per square inch on us all. Or, for metric-system lovers, 1 kilogram per square centimetre. Racism has a weight that is equal to atmospheric pressure, doubling the effect of the Earth’s air on every square inch of every Black and Indigenous person’s body, mind, and spirit.
All that weight, all this constant pressure, equivalent to being 10 metres underwater, slowly drowns many a Black and Indigenous person, outside-in and inside-out.
From conception to the afterlife, this weight is inescapable.
Black hyper-masculinity and Latino patriarchy cannot shift it. Nor can socioeconomic mobility and educational achievements. Nor can alcohol or drugs or sex. Nor can Christianity or respectability politics or virginity or “doin’ the right thing.” No matter a BIPOC’s class standing, this weight and pressure is always there.
It constricts skin and muscle, crushes bone and bone marrow, entangles neurones and blood vessels. Leaving so many Black and Indigenous persons in a constant state of anxiety-ridden awareness. No human should be on alert for attacks and oppression their whole lives.
I have been an American Black male for more than half a century. There have been only a handful of times since turning seven and watching the mini-series Roots for the first time in 1977 when I have not felt this excess weight, this otherwise unyielding pressure.