“I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” –Nelson Mandela
Where has August gone? I mean, really—where has it gone? I celebrated my one-year anniversary of moving back home to New York, and around the same time, I worked myself into a beginning stage of burning out. This is unsurprisingly common for young New Yorkers, but in my case, it came at a time where the rest of my world seemed to be set on fire.
The recent protests out of Ferguson, Missouri—stemming from the murder of unarmed 18-year old, Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson—has shaken the ground of which we all walk on, and I stand in support with those protesting around the nation.
Until now, I have not been able to get my thoughts down in words. The murder of Brown occurred right at the peak of my burning out, so all I could do in initial response to it was cry. I was tired. Only two days prior, I was celebrating the justice given to Theodore Wafer for his conviction in the killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, feeling optimistic about the future of Black America, and then I learned of another unarmed Black brother of mine being gunned down by police to his death. In AMERICA! Land of the free.
I may be an American citizen here, but as a Black man, I do not feel safe in my own country.
And that is a problem.
It’s been 16 days since Brown’s death, and in that time, there has already been another Black man who was excessively gunned down by white police officers—this time, Kajieme Powell, who after being shot either 8 or 9 times, was then handcuffed while laying dead, all of which was caught on tape by a witness. Another Black man killed by American police.
Another Black man killed by American police.
“From 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in [the United States],” Melissa Harris-Perry reported earlier this month. Twice a week.
How am I to feel safe knowing this?
Still, protestors have not stopped working to call for a change. Even as I write this, hundreds of individuals are preparing for a nationwide ride to Ferguson as part of a national call to end state violence against Black people.
This is the beginning of a new movement.
“They don’t need any other reason to shoot you other than you being Black,” I remember my mom always saying to me as a kid. I always hated when she said that because in my child world, that just couldn’t be possible. And yet it continues to ring true today: Black people make up only 13% of the American population, yet make up more than a third of those killed in officer involved shootings across the nation.
For Black people, we have grown accustomed to telling our children at a young age—especially our boys—to expect to be treated differently by police. Not only should no one ever have to do this, it is a fact that is mostly unknown by the white majority. As Black people, we shouldn’t hold on to this truth as an “inside joke” anymore, only talking about it amongst ourselves—we need to liberate ourselves from this crippling remnant of over 400 years of slavery.
Not since the Civil Rights Movement have we seen such large amounts of Black people and anti-racist allies taking collective action to call out the injustices we face as Black Americans. And, similarly to a time of far worse racism in the country, we have been denied our humanity and free right to speak, receiving military-like responses from law enforcement.
Regardless of how you stand on the issue, I think we all need to take some time to sit and think about what the images we are seeing mean for us, as individuals, and for our society, as Americans. Are we ok with seeing images of war-like police officers in tanks with extraordinary weapons pointed at peaceful protestors? And if it is ok to you, what does that say about how we view major global issues like the violence going on in Gaza?
The thing about change is that it is not often quick and immediate, but seeing the start of it is beautiful.
I have always appreciated and been given strength from studying social movements from around the world. For me, nothing is more beautiful than seeing a collective group of diverse individuals peacefully fighting for social/racial justice. Though in a perfect world no one would ever have to fight against something like social and structural racism, thinking of the many people coming together to call it out is my positive way of getting me to smile.
We are all hurting right now, some more than others. And though it’s important for those of us not in Ferguson to give our strength and voice to this movement, we must also allow ourselves time to search for something positive. We must remember the joy in living even when we feel like there isn’t any.
I want to use my voice to add in the fight to show that BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Though we Black Americans have been given more freedom to be our authentic selves since the Civil Rights Movement, there are still a ton of institutionalised and normalised pieces of our white American society that we should no longer just deal with as something permanent. If we are seeing images of today like this:
that evoke similar feelings from images of the Civil Rights Movement:
then we must empower ourselves to come together to call for a change:
“Michael Brown does not want to be remembered as one who prompted riots, but how we change the way we police in the United States.”
Words spoken by Rev. Al Sharpton today at Michael’s funeral service.
May we all remember this as we move forward. Whether on the ground protesting or in a small suburban town in America, the conversation must begin today. It is unacceptable to not talk about race anymore. There is a visible problem, and we need to fix it.
I will no longer be ok with not feeling safe in my own country simply for just being who I am, a Black man. We should not be ok that many of our fellow Americans feel the same way.
This is a call to action. May you feel as empowered as I to let America know that Black lives matter!