*Trigger Warning*Potentially Triggering Content*
I have been black for my entire life and I have been aware of racism for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I acknowledged racism and it confused and angered me, but I did not process it emotionally the same way I do now. In light of recent events that have been mainstreaming the media, I find myself reflecting on who I am and where I stand in this country.
Writing about the history of racism and violence in this country crossed my mind, but I am exhausted and overwhelmed with having to historically educate those around me that should already be at least some what historically educated. I will continue to educate, but right here, right now I want to make this about me because this is my safe space and I can act as I please. Before I go on, I do ask that you and all those you know take a look back into time and see that this violence is not new. In fact, the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s was just as violent if not more violent, there just were no cellphones to film it all. So, even though the fire and destruction is scary, just think about how scary it is for the people who know that we have already done all of this before and they (the oppressors) have yet to hear us and acknowledge us as human beings worthy of an equally good life as themselves. Just know that even though this is what is mainstreaming the media right now, the position of black and brown lives in this country has been this way for over four-hundred years beginning with the violent capturing of the land resulting in the wrongful, violent deaths of many Native Americans. This is not just a social media trend. This is about the civil and human rights of PEOPLE. This is about the livelihood of PEOPLE. This is not a joke. Even though it may be difficult to grasp, this is about people literally fighting for their lives and rights as a human being.
The past week has been very traumatizing because everywhere on social media I see black people dying, black people getting assaulted and killed by the police, and black people fighting for their lives. However, as traumatizing as the level of media coverage is, it is a necessary evil. People need to see the reality of what this country is…no matter how ugly and outrageously brutal. That is one problem with society. As children, we have always been taught a censored version of history at school and it was up to the parents to show their children honesty. If children do not grow up knowing just how brutal the United States of America was and is, then as teenagers and adults these children are more likely to maintain that sheltered knowledge. Of course, as individuals we have the choice to support the atrocities of this country or defy them, but the uncensored knowledge needs to be given and it needs to be given in a way that is accessible to all. I should not have been eighteen years old when I first learned about Juneteenth in a school setting. That is not okay. I shouldn’t have been celebrating Columbus Day when I was a child in school. That is not okay. I realize that there are special classes that can be taken and that there are libraries with books…but the lack of education of history in schools is the purposeful suppression of knowledge that is done to brainwash children into believing the United States has done little wrong and teaches us in a way that leads us to believe things like slavery wasn’t that bad.
If I have to voice my opinion on what is essentially a second civil rights movement, I would have to say that first, this was a long time coming. Also, the amount of violence and destruction that has been done is infinitesimal in comparison to the amount of violence and destruction that has been done against black lives. I know there are people that worry about the small businesses, and it is not that I do not empathize with them, but when there is a feeling of a revolution in the air, there will always be people that fall prey. In such large historical events, we must collectively stay focused on the big picture because there will be media and oppressors that try to tilt the vision. It must also be remembered that police brutality, although a crucial issue, is a singular branch on the enormous tree of racism in this country. I think that this movement, which is centered on police brutality is powerful, and personally what I would like to see come from it is serious police reform. If we are going to keep the police (because if we are being honest, the likelihood of the police force being abolished is slim to none), they must all wear body cams that cannot be inactivated because they simply cannot be trusted. All of the body cam footage must be reviewed because just because a person did not die, does not mean that racist motives and tactics were not used. Every police precinct needs to be reviewed for civil rights violations and a plethora of other violations, and not only when tragedies occur, they need to be reviewed on a regular basis. People in such a position need to be kept in check, especially people in a profession with such a violent history. Police officers need more training. They should have at least a masters in law enforcement (criminal justice), but a PhD would be even better. And the actual academy needs to be at least two years, anything less is not enough. They have just as much control over our lives as doctors and their qualifications should reflect that. They need to be consistently psychologically evaluated, physiologically evaluated, able to maintain being calm and collected in certain situations (even if they feel their life is at risk), be able to differentiate between life-threatening situations and non, and be qualified so that anyone and everyone can feel protected by their oath to serve. Plus a variety of other qualities that is necessary for someone holding a position that is meant to protect and serve the lives of all. Also, for some reason, it seems that in these situations officers shoot to kill. I am not knowledgeable on police protocol, but shooting to kill seems most unnecessary in all of the police brutality situations that have occurred. And, most importantly, police need to be held accountable for their actions by their superiors, all of their colleagues, and a court of law for their actions. There is also, absolutely no reason, that an officer that has had more than three (and that is already giving a lot of leeway, hell, I could say one) complaints or incidents concerning their competency as an officer should be allowed to retain their position on the force. And also retain any position on any police force. Much like a medical license getting revoked. I personally do not understand what it feels like to be a police officer, but anyone that goes into the force knows the types of situations police officers can get involved in. There has been enough cinematic art, real-life footage, and stories for people to get the general idea. And if one does not think that they can handle it, then do not become one. Or, if you become one and you find that it is too difficult, then leave the force. A humble officer that walks away from a job that is not for them is not cowardly, the cowards are the ones that remain despite knowing they are not fit for the job. It’d be like a surgeon who knows that they are developing hand tremors, yet they continue to perform surgery. Don’t do something, especially if it is something that is thought to protect people, if you cannot do it to the best of your ability for ALL people.
Even though police brutality is the highlighted issue right now, we cannot lose sight on the other issues at hold. Residential racism. Voter suppression. Racism in the healthcare field. Those are just a few examples. It is all systematic. Systematic racism is intricately woven into just about anything and everything in life. I know it is just one step at a time (and man have we been taking steps for hundreds of years), but the more the citizens of this country know about the racism and overall discrimination, the more that we can get rid of the racism and discrimination. People can choose to be racist after knowing all the facts, but there are also the people that appear to be oblivious or ignorant to racism. So, by making the racism apparent and literally spelling it out for people (like the media has been doing), there is a chance of acquiring more allies and with more allies comes more power. This just doesn’t go for racism against black and brown people, it goes for discrimination against all minorities. LGBTQ, the disabled, women, those in the lower class, those with minority religious beliefs, and many other minorities of people. It is a several hundred year journey, I know, but I am a firm believer that the more we are educated as an entire unit of the problems that exist, the more problems can be solved. The more we know today, the more we can do tomorrow.
I want to end this on a personal note and give recognition to my brothers, sisters, and allies. Brothers and sisters, we are tired and we are in pain, but we must stay strong and I know that we will. We have been living this life for our entire lives and those before us lived this life too, and in every instance, we overcome. We may be beaten, we may lose brothers and sisters, we may be told to keep quiet…but we will not be quiet and we will continue to be resilient. We have survived through hundreds of years of agony and we have maintained our values and have never stopped fighting. Allies, your support is felt and your support is needed now more then ever, and the true allies out there know this. You have taken beatings, you have risked your life, and you have stood up for your black brothers and sisters. This battle may be for our life, but you are willing to give yours and that is heard and felt. You know the way this country works to silence us, so you put our message into the country with your voice. This is no time for us all to separate because if you stand for my life, I stand for yours, and you are my brother or sister.
It is when we are all united that we are the strongest.