I first read “Walking While Black,” a beautiful and poignant essay in LitHub by Garnette Cadogan, a few years ago. It’s about the complicated act of walking while black, both as a child on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, and as an older man in New Orleans and New York City. I remembered it over the weekend.
When we first learn to walk, the world around us threatens to crash into us. Every step is risky. We train ourselves to walk without crashing by being attentive to our movements, and extra-attentive to the world around us. As adults we walk without thinking, really. But as a black adult I am often returned to that moment in childhood when I’m just learning to walk. I am once again on high alert, vigilant.
Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with others, unable to join the New York flâneurs I had read about and hoped to join.
Walking—the simple, monotonous act of placing one foot before the other to prevent falling—turns out not to be so simple if you’re black. Walking alone has been anything but monotonous for me; monotony is a luxury.
As I posted on Instagram this morning, I stand against racism and these acts of violence on black people. And I fully support those that are physically protesting injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism in the U.S. In the past, I’ve never used my voice or any personal online platforms to explicitly say this. And that is a problem. I need to do better, to speak up, to show up. If you want to show your support but aren’t sure how, my colleague Michelle has pulled together links to bail funds, organizations, reading lists, black-owned businesses, and resources on how to act.