Hello? Is anyone there? Are you listening? There’s so much that needs to be said…but I want to make sure we’re heard. I figure it’s about time I use this platform I’ve been given for this specific reason.
Years ago Dr. King said, “I’m tired of marching for something that should have been mine at birth.” Those words hit like a ton of bricks, don’t they? The most recent “Justice For” hashtag that’s sweeping the nation is that of George Floyd. Floyd was a 46-year-old African-American who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who had his knee pinned to Floyd’s neck during an arrest. Even after multiple cries of “please, I can’t breathe. Please. They’re going to kill me…” and his body becoming motionless on the ground, nothing changed. The now fired officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck until prompted to by EMT’s after refusing to check his pulse, seeing that his body was lifeless for several minutes.
It seems as though no matter how much people of color look to advance, we’re constantly reminded that we’re still not given or presented advantages that others are. The way this country is ran and the way my people are seen makes us constantly question so much about what goes on. How many more officers will get off free for the murder of cooperative, unarmed POC? How many times are we going to be told “you should be grateful it’s not the 50’s”? How much longer will my family have some form of concern that I might not make it home at night? How much longer will I have to be nervous if a cop follows me on the street? How much longer will this be ignored? Perception isn’t always reality. Being black in America shouldn’t be a crime in a country that has the words, “we hold these truths to be self-evident. All men are created equal…” in its Declaration of Independence.
I find it ironic that George Floyd was killed by a man kneeling on his neck. It’s ironic because Colin Kaepernick, Kenny Stills and others kneeled and still kneel for that very reason. Unarmed minorities who are senselessly mistreated by authorities and how it’s constantly looked over. Just two weeks ago, I was having a similar conversation with my girlfriend. And in the middle of that conversation, she told me that she didn’t want me to be the next name or “Justice For” hashtag that floats across the screen. That is a conversation that shouldn’t be had in a nation that claims to have “liberty and justice for all”.
We scream Black Lives Matter because we cannot breathe in America. We are constantly suffocated by how much our feelings, thoughts and worries are disregarded because of the history of our country. It’s like people forget we were born here too. Blacks are supposed to have the same rights and opportunities but it’s like a far off dream to experience the equality we are told we have access to. So many times I’ve been asked why I’m so pro-black or why I have the views I do. And when that question is asked, I share several experiences.
I once had an injustice conversation with some friends of mine who were white. One of them spoke with the most honesty I’ve ever heard and said, “I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t white. I literally break the speed limit daily with no fear because at the end of the day, I know I’m white. That’s my get out of jail free card.” I recently talked with a friend from college and we both talked on how we were sorry that we were part of national championship teams for that school. It was all good when we played ball but once we were done, the higher ups didn’t know us. In 2013, I was falsely accused of attempted sexual assault. That changed the trajectory of my life overnight. My reputation and credibility were ruined and my freedom was at risk because someone couldn’t get me to bend to their will. During my hiring process at my current job, I told my now boss that I don’t want to be hired simply to make the staff seem more diverse. If that was the case, I don’t want to continue conversation. I’ve been used for my blackness by a former employer/mentor…someone I once called my brother and looked up to. I’ve endured the racism, the black jokes, been the example of “I can’t be racist because my friend A.J. is black” comments and I will tell you that it’s so frustrating. I was once walking home one evening and was almost ran over by a car with two white men in it; one whom promptly called me a “stupid f****** nigger” as they drove off. I’ve been forced to resign from a job because of racism. I’ve had a man once tell me not to be expecting any holiday dinner invites because he couldn’t have a black man in his home at his table whether I dated his daughter or not. Is that enough to make you listen and be willing to try and understand? How about the time when I was the only black at a friend’s family dinner and his cousin gets up to leave, tells her son to say bye and give everyone a hug then she picked him up and proceeded to walk out of the restaurant when he got to me. Literally as her son was saying, “what about him, mommy?” Or maybe the time where I was the only black person in a car and once that car was pulled over, I was the only person the officer focused on. Then of course, there was the time at age 14 where I was searched, handcuffed and nearly arrested for sitting in the front seat of a truck listening to the radio.
These are just a few of the many experiences I’ve had in almost 28 years of life.
But hey, at least it’s not the 50’s…right?
I constantly see people say they are tired of hearing “Black Lives Matter” because all lives matter. And to that I say, we’re tired of black lives routinely becoming “Justice For” hashtags. We’re sick of hearing “what was the whole story?” “This man had a history of…” etc. It’s just another way to show us that we are not cared about or valued. Yes, all lives matter but all lives won’t matter until Black Lives Matter. Are you finally ready to listen or will you continue to stand by idly and watch mass execution and injustice float across your TV social media feeds?
Ask yourself this: if George Floyd was a young white man from Beverly Hills, who was a straight A student on his way to study at Cambridge, would you riot? Would you make a call to action? Let me know. Your silence is deafening.
AJ, Thank you, thank you, thank you.