Through Distorting Glass

“The world is on fire”

“Minneapolis is burning”

“Please I can’t breathe”

“Mama, they’re going to kill me” 

I watched another person die on television today; a son, a friend, a man, a human being.  I watched it happen with a lump in my throat and the cavalier attitude of the man doing the killing confirmed that this killer did not, could not recognize the humanity of the person he was depriving of life. I realized that to him, George Floyd was invisible. This reminded me of a segment in The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison explaining, “I am an invisible man…. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me” Does your gaze register me, my humanity, my Blackness? Can you see my pain or do you only hear garbled sounds foreign to you and irritating like nails on a chalkboard? Can you see the pain, the history of pain that lives within us and the fear of more pain to come?

I am wondering if this is how it begins…genocide. What degree of numbness and disregard is required in order to launch a full out assault against personhood. And so we fight against the looming threat. Ellison goes on to say, “It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you.” This is anguish that we are watching, that we are feeling. It is the fire of that pain that sets everything ablaze. Can you hear the crack in the rallying cry? That is the pain that you hear. Pain at having to watch another man die on television,  forced to be spectators to the lynching death of yet another Black person. As I  huddle my boys close to me, I grieve for the mothers that will not have their sons return to them due to violence and mass incarceration, mothers whose sons and daughters are lost to them forever. I saw that far away look in his eyes, that cop with his hands casually in his pockets, completely tone deaf to the pleas and the sounds of anguish, the gasping for air; deaf to the cries to  the mother who would no longer cradle him. So many shining lights have gone out before their time…George Floyd, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Gardner, Sean Reed, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice…shall I go on? Did you see them go? Did you watch them die too? 

And what of me?  I am also invisible.  At what age will my sons become invisible? Are they already invisible unbeknownst to me? Can you not see me? If I am not your token, can you not see me? If I am not your “Black friend”, can you not see me? If I am not the employee you are forced to collaborate with, can you not see me? If I were not your boss, would you not see me?  If I were not the pebble in your shoe, that grain of sand in your eye, reminding you that I am here,  would you see me at all? 

We ARE here. We are rising and you will not see us coming. 



*This post is also featured on

Published by cathlinet

Teacher activist, social justice advocate, educational leader.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: