The inside of my tired is exhausted. The world is on fire. The smoke is choking me with rage. The fumes irritate my eyes, so they are full of tears. There’s too little air; my chest is tight. My hands are shaking. My body is telling me it has had enough.

Safety: (noun): "the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury." Similar: welfare, well-being, protection, security.

My body is telling me it has had enough. Enough of the unsafety that is always around the corner. Enough of intimately knowing that it has been designated as deserving of danger, risk or injury. No, not deserving. Inviting.

I’m tired, so deeply tired, of feeling grief in my body that isn’t mine, but could very well be. There’s a thin line between African and black. It may be a long line – 400 years long, severed bloodlines long, drowned ancestors in the Atlantic long – but it is a thin one. There’s a thin line between the last time I was raped and the next time. I have no way of knowing when I might cross it.

Do you know what it’s like to be safe? Can you tell me, please? I’m desperate to teach it to my daughter. To teach it to other little girls like her. Right now, there are 11 rapists who, one after the other, snatched any sense of safety out of the hands of . Most of them are still walking free. So please tell me. Tell us. What is it like to be safe?

The world turns its eye to my people only to remind us that there is no separation between "Black" and "death". "Girl" and "rape". "Queer" and "violence". If there is a thin line separating us, we’re the only ones who can see it. And we can see it because it is drawn with our blood.

I am so tired. I wish I could tell you how tired, but my tongue is an involuntary muscle and I don’t have enough left in me to make it form those words.

Instead of trying to tell you how tired I am, let me tell you a story. She became an angel when she went to a church to study; she had plans to stay on Earth for a long time, you see, so she was in her first year of studies to get a degree in Microbiology. She said goodbye to her sister; maybe even goodbye, I’ll see you later. How much later? She didn’t mean a whole lifetime later. She didn’t mean, goodbye, I’ll see you when you become an angel too.

She went to church, and her body was broken into under God’s most watchful eye. Then her body was emptied out; she was removed from it forever. Goodbye, Uwa. God was already close by. God was right there, she was already in God’s house, so when she became an angel she didn’t have far to go.

I saw Uwa’s sister’s face for the first time in a video where she was screaming, from the depths of her broken heart, for justice. I’ve seen Uwa’s face many times; her photo has been everywhere lately. Hashtag Justice for This Girl who isn’t supposed to be an angel. Not yet. And not like this. This shouldn’t even be possible. Why is this possible?

In the photos there’s a young girl smiling casually at the camera, taking life for granted. And why not? Was she not alive? Should she not still be? I could’ve walked past her in the shop the other day. We might’ve smiled politely at each other. I’ve smiled politely at thousands of girls like her. I don’t need to know them to smile at them, or to know that they too grew up being taught to be afraid of the kind of violence that took Uwa.

Only for a half-second or two. There is a lifetime of grief and rage in the gap. The words come out, but afterwards the air doesn’t go in. Her neck tightens, her eyes squeeze shut. She opens her mouth; it’s a half-second where no sound comes out. No sound, but I can hear her lungs heaving. She can’t breathe.

We are so tired. It’s so hard to carry all this in the body, generation after generation, mother to daughter to daughter who everyone thought was a son. This is why our lungs are collapsing. Our bodies are failing under the weight of it all. This violence is so pedestrian, you see. We are under siege, and it is pedestrian.

Pedestrian: (adjective). Similar: tiresome, unvarying, repetitive, routine, lifeless.

We are so deeply tired, because this is everyday violence. Every hour violence. Every minute violence. "Make a video so we can see" violence, "make a video or you alone will care" violence, "we pay actors to play at it" violence, "what the hell are they so mad about" violence, "get the fuck over it" violence, "how dare you assert you don’t deserve this" violence.

We are tired, and under this bone-deep exhaustion there is a tight and bubbling rage. The world is on fire, don’t you see? The world is on fire and our bodies are the fuel. But we want to live. We want to live. We are already alive; why can’t we just live?

The world is on fire. What’s a few then, if that’s what will make you see?

All Black Lives Matter,


Greyscale cartoon image of OluTimehin Adegbeye, Othering correspondent, on an orange background with a white envelope in the foreground.
Want to receive my newsletter in your inbox? Follow my weekly newsletter to receive notes, thoughts, and questions on the topic of Othering and our shared humanity. Click here to subscribe to my newsletter.