Now is not the time to be quiet. Your silence is not a stance of neutrality, it is a fuel for inhumanity. Say something.
Growing up black in America is, fundamentally, no more interesting than the rest of the world. Just like everyone else, we wake up to the sound of the morning alarm and stumble to the bathroom and wince as the day’s first bit of light hits our eyes. We brush our teeth and get ready; setting goals for ourselves and determined to have a good day as we pull into morning traffic. We send our children to school, go to work to make a living, and strive for success, love, and friendships… just like everyone else in the world.
But unlike everyone else in the world, there is a bond that links all black Americans: the common knowledge that a black man will have to work ten times harder than his white counterpart to see the same results.
If you happen to be gay and black, make that 15 times harder and — don’t forget — you have to promise not to get too carried away when talking about your private life. That is, no talking about dinner dates or Tinder matches.
And if you’re a black woman? Ha. We’ve just come to accept that our contributions in the world go vastly underappreciated while our styles and mannerisms are continuously glorified — but only if they are on the bodies of women from other races. The same looks are criticized and looked down upon when they are on us.
We as black Americans share the common knowledge that when standing next to our black friends, they were called a “nigger” at some point in their lives — a word charged with the intent to dehumanize the person and destabilize the soul.
Throughout past political scandals, it has always been the same thing. We are told that our mere existence deems us a threat and that anyone who desires to pass through the ranks to the Oval Office must do so on the back of being “tough-on-crime”. Whether we’re taking a nap on our college quad, sitting inside of a Starbucks or bird-watching in a park, society will constitute everything and anything as some sort of criminal activity — because we must be menaces, right?
As if it all wasn’t enough, we are told that if our lives are taken by overzealous, white supremacist citizens, that “the swift hand of justice for all” will not be so swift towards our killers because we probably deserved it anyway — so much for tough-on-crime. According to them, some menial misdemeanor we may — or may not — have picked up 20 years ago as a result of just being a dumb teenager is a testament to our criminality and a justification for our murder.
If everyone can be under the impression that an entire race can be menacing, why is no one is under the impression that an entire race can be racist? Of course, we are not under any false illusion that an entire race is racist, however, just as ridiculous as that sounds, you’d think that more people who realize just how ridiculous it is to continuously assume the same negative stereotypes that are constantly being projected about the black community.
There are levels of racism. Waving a red flag with an ‘X’ made of white stars and outlined by blue while donning a white hood in the midnight meeting is not the only level. And having a “black friend” does not automatically annotate a lack thereof.
When you’re sitting in a meeting with the school board as they discuss hairstyles that may be “too distracting” and begin to throw out words like “afro, dreads, kinky,” you may begin to realize that those styles are primarily worn by the African-American community. When you start to think to yourself, hmmm, maybe this isn’t right — SAY SOMETHING.
And when you’re sitting on a jury stand as the DA reads off the list of accolades the officer has accumulated over the years, you may find yourself struggling within. Sure, there are a few mentions of excessive force, but he deserves to make a few mistakes…even at the expense of someone else’s life… because he’s still a good guy, right? — oh, and let’s not forget that he feared for his life… even though the other man was unarmed… and he had his hands in the air… or he was running away… or he was handcuffed, face smushed into the hot pavement, and begging for his life. When you finally realize, that the fact remains, a human life was taken that didn’t need to be. That information alone should push you past a “reasonable doubt” for a conviction — SAY SOMETHING.
When you see someone about to call the cops on something trivial — like having a barbecue in the park, or two men sitting inside of a Starbucks- SAY SOMETHING. When you see something that is fundamentally wrong — SAY SOMETHING.
When Botham Jean, a black man, was murdered inside of his home, his killer was sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, when a man killed a police dog, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison. This sends a horrible message to the black community about our worth in this Nation.
There are bad people in this world and there are good people in this world; in between them is a spectrum wherein lie the hurt people, good people, decent people, confused people, misinformed people, and scared people.
We need the world to understand that we are NOT trying to reach the bad people right now. Racist people will always exist and that’s just the way that life works. We are trying to take away the power they continuously abuse. We want to take away power from the ones who sit in courtrooms, the ones who sit on the board of education, the ones who sit in the White House, and the ones who swear to protect and serve yet take the law into their own hands at the expense of an entire race. We are trying to reach the people in the middle of the spectrum. We are trying to tell them to SAY SOMETHING because they can, in fact, say something.
Say something so that those people will understand that their acts against minorities will have consequences.
YES — make the talent recruiter think twice about passing on the black man with dreads at the corporate job even though his resume was, by far, the best in the pile. Make that officer think twice before pulling the trigger on an unarmed man when he begins to realize that he WILL be convicted, he WILL lose his pension, and he WILL lose his freedom. When a handcuffed man is lying face-down on the ground with three grown men holding him down and he, through his constricted airflow, manages to say, “Sir, I can’t breathe,” they WILL get up.
Too many bad people are bonded by the common knowledge that if they “make a mistake”, “fear for their life” or act impulsively, if it results in the death of a minority, they will more than likely receive little to no consequences for their actions. This is why as many voices as possible are needed to tell them that it will no longer happen.
So why do I have hope? Because for the first time during my lifetime, more and more people are speaking out. And for the first time during my lifetime, I can see Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream coming to fruition. People of all different races, and even different nationalities, are using their voices to say enough is enough. More and more people are using their voices to help their fellow human beings because an injustice to one is an injustice to all.
Really, who knows if it will be enough this time? Will things go back to “normal” once the media diverts our attention to something else? Maybe…maybe not.
But what I do see is progress. And where there is progress, there is hope.