(Non)Toxic Masculinity Columns

Those We Have Loved

Robert Monson

Days bleed together in a pandemic. We are still in the midst of one—aren’t we? 

Contrary to popular belief, and a world that seems to have just moved on with COVID, a pandemic grips us. Sickness has struck this globe in a way that will probably impact us for decades. As we come to grips with the physical and financial impact that COVID has wrought, I find myself thinking of another wound that was opened up in 2020: Black death. 

As the summer of 2020 raged forward with most of us stuck at home, some of us found ourselves glued to images of Black people dying. I could write for days about the people that we watched the police brutalize in just that year alone. It was sad. It was frustrating. It was heartbreaking. It hit in a different way because of the lack of all other distractions. 

No longer could we run from interrogating the worth of Black people to this country. We already knew, of course. We been knew. Somehow, this concentrated pain was different. Not better or worse, just different. 


Breonna Taylor’s tragic slaying hurt me. It did. I find myself still at a loss for words for her. She deserved more and deserves more than to be a footnote in history. She deserved the right to be able to sleep peacefully without fear. Instead, her world–her very life–was taken from her. 

The pictures that surfaced from her social media give a mere glimpse of who she was–a beautiful soul worthy of dignity. Loved in life. Loved even in death by those who knew her. Loved by many who have allowed themselves to be impacted by her story.


Elijah broke me. Completely. Elijah Mcclain. I remember where I was in my house when I heard the story of this precious young man who was killed by the Aurora, Colorado police. My body went numb as I experienced Elijah’s last words. The words of a young man pleading for understanding and empathy. When he shared that he was an introvert, my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. 

If you look at pictures of Elijah’s life,  you will find that he was a sweet young man who played the violin and wouldn’t harm anyone. On the night of his murder, he simply was minding his own business. A Black body laid hold of without cause, tried, and executed.


How are we to feel about all of the losses that we have endured in such a small amount of time? What should be the response to traumatized Black bodies (both living and dead)? I cannot give an all-encompassing answer because I believe that it is up to each of us to go on the journey of processing our own emotions. 

Have we had more losses now than at other time in American history? Without looking, I would assume that the answer is no. Black people being killed isn’t a new thing, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to deal with our feelings.  

Many have expressed extreme rage over the continued police brutality that we face in America. Still, others have allowed mourning to really take center stage as they try to deal with the loss of life. In all, a sense of love is the undercurrent of our raging and bewilderment. A “love of the folk” that binds us in our collective emotion. 


As someone who didn’t personally know Breonna or Elijah, I can say that my heart has been impacted by a sense of love that I didn’t know existed. 

I still cry for Elijah. Still. I wonder about his family and what horrors they must wade through in order to continue to survive. I cry for this country and its racist ideologies. I cry for myself. For those we have loved and lost.

 I know that we won’t forget the ache that dwells within. I hope that as we ache, we can move forward to paths of liberation and peace. 


“My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me?”

Rest in power, Elijah. And all of those we have loved.