Laquan McDonald And The Slow Death Of Black Joy

CNN screenshot

This is how it happens. This is how it fucks you up.

It's Tuesday. It's a little after 7pm EST. On most Tuesdays, at this time, I'm either walking my dog or feeding my dog before walking him. After walking the dog, I usually go to the gym. And then, after the gym, I pick my wife up from her pottery class that ends at 9pm. I hadn't planned on going to the gym today, though, because I played basketball for two hours yesterday, and I'm still sore. And I've learned — grudgingly — to listen to my body.


Instead, after walking my dog, I was going to sit on one of couches in the living room, watch college basketball, respond to some email I missed during the day, and read some of the newer additions to #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies. Which, all things considered, might have been my favorite Black Twitter-created hashtag yet. The tweets it generated were so hilarious, so accurate, so familiar, and so beautifully and unambiguously Black that it felt like home. Like I had a million-deep extended family, and we were all sitting at the same table and on the same couch, cracking and laughing at the same jokes while caught with the same itis.

But, I'm not doing any of that right now. Because I'm writing about Laquan McDonald. And I'm thinking about Laquan McDonald. And I'm thinking about watching the recently released video of Laquan McDonald's execution. And I'm thinking about why I just don't have the stomach to watch it tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or any night. And I'm thinking — convinced, actually — I'll never watch it. And I'm thinking if this makes me a hypocrite because, several months ago, when another Black person (Sam DuBose) was murdered by another police officer, and that video was released, I wrote that we had an obligation to watch it. And I'm thinking about what could have possibly been going through the head of Jason Van Dyke (the police officer who executed Laquan McDonald) while he fired enough shots to hit him 16 times. And I'm thinking about what Laquan McDonald could have possibly been thinking about in the last moments of his life. Was it fear? Did it happen too quickly for the fear to even register? Did he know he was going to die? Or perhaps did he draw his last breath still believing that he'd walk away from this eventually. Was he confused? Was he angry? Was he sad? Or was the pain too sudden and too overbearing for him to feel or recognize or sense anything else?

And this is how shit like this tears your joy away. How it rips it apart. How it lights and burns it. This is it. This is the invisible psychic cost of existing in America while Black. This is the toll we all pay. This is how it ruins your evening. Your work day tomorrow. Your Thanksgiving dinner, when someone brings it up. Your week. Your year. This is how it chips away at you. Punches you. Kicks you. Wounds you.

This is how it happens. This is how it fucks you up.

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About the author

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)