The Guilt Behind It All: The Emotional Limbo of Being a Black American Abroad

The news of Black bodies being gunned down always arrives after a prolonged period of peace from the hell Black Americans live through on American soil. It never fails to make me think about my privilege as a Black American living abroad. While I’m not on the land that my ancestors littered with their blood, sweat, and tears, I still feel pangs of sorrow. Although I am thousands of miles away, I feel anguish. I feel hatred. I feel hopeless. I feel something similar to survivor’s guilt.

My experience as a Black American abroad isn’t bad at all. I am stable, I live a good life, and I am generally happy. I feel free of the oppression that lingers in the air of the United States. Not the oppression that slaps you in the face like an East Coast winter, but the oppression that continually blows across your skin giving you goosebumps, like the breeze of a brewing storm that picks up a back porch door and slaps it against the frame.

In the beginning, the freedom felt good. Most days, it still feels good, but it’s not much against the guilt. The guilt creeps in when images, videos, and think pieces about my Black brothers and sisters being gunned down in the only place I know as “home” fill my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. I feel the guilt when my people are ripped off of buses. I feel the guilt when I learn that Black Americans are dying at higher rates than other races from a deadly virus. I feel the guilt when I am unable to run to the streets and march for our human rights to jog, have a cellphone, sleep, play cops and robbers, or breathe even.

Often my guilt consumes me and forces me to reckon with my thoughts. I was able to leave, I had the privilege to go, and I had the right to move, but what about my brothers and sisters who don’t? What happens to them? Will they be forced to suffer until the end of time? How will they make it? How will my people survive? What will happen to the little Black girls and little Black boys that live in an inherently racist, dangerous, and murderous society all because of the color of their skin?

What are the answers to these questions? I’m not sure, and that’s what makes the guilt sink further into my bones and deeper into my soul.

Ahmaud Arbery Gun Violence USA

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