Monotony Is a Luxury: Walking While Black

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.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Senior editor at Longreads / Automattic

5 thoughts on “Monotony Is a Luxury: Walking While Black

  1. Thank you for sharing this piece. It’s a terrific reminder that monotony is the luxury many of us live with. We do not have to walk in fear the way our Black family and friends do. We cannot fathom it happening to us because it WONT happen to us. This week has been another unbelievable tragedy. But… it’s gotten people talking for the first time maybe ever about what it means to be Black. I really hope this means we will work towards a more safe, more monotonous world.

  2. We must all raise out voices against racism.. I too have turned over my blog to #BlackoutTuesday
    What I am sure about is that babies are not born discriminating against someone because of the colour of their skin.
    They learn that at their parents knee or from peers

  3. ‘…how to act – w/o fear and intimidation, trust there is a higher power that sees all and determines all. Once we understand the rain falls on the just and unjust alike, then it is up to ourselves to be ourselves in all situations. We bump into walls even as adults. We climb walls using props if need be. Yes we may fall but we get up, sometimes of course with difficulty. But we don’t spit at or on or violently resit an evil force, human or otherwise. All this is easy to share, but oft difficult to do – but rolling with the punches for being me/us, we will be healthier as we age.

    Cheers you see the urgency in speaking up, showing up, doing better, this is such a challenging time, great you respond in such a caring way. I will read Walking While Black (no matter the shade may be).

  4. This reminded me of a t-shirt I own which states “Peace also Takes Courage.”
    What I also appreciate in your post is that you give readers a way out, providing resources for us to take action. Otherwise, it’s all words.

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