Many people say that they can remember the exact moment in time they first heard about the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Where they were, who they were with and how they felt. They can describe the pain, fear, anger and confusion they felt when they heard the devastating news that an innocent 17 year old, unarmed Black boy was taken from his family solely because someone with a title and a gun thought he looked suspicious. I was only 9 years old then, but it was clear that this didn’t affect my non-black peers the way it affected me. I was forced to grow up faster than my non-black peers because I had to learn to accommodate the majority. The boys in my family, both younger and older than me, were getting lessons on how to adapt to certain situations so they could seem less threatening. To comply, do what they ask. Being care-free is what life is about as a child, but how could we be carefree when we had to constantly worry about fitting into the White, American image? What I’ve come to learn since then is, as long as you are Black in America, there’s nothing you can do to not be seen as a threat because the color of your skin is seen as a threat within itself.
8 years after Trayvon’s death, I am now the same age he was when he died; 17. Since his death, there have been more recordings of police brutality on social media to raise awareness. This made masses of people desensitized to the murder of innocent and unarmed black men and women at the hands of police, until now. The video of George Floyd’s death feels just like Trayvon Martin’s all over again. Just like I did 8 years ago, I couldn’t help but think that it could’ve easily been someone I know. I am tired of seeing black death due to racism on the news and internet. I am tired of waking up in fear every day. I am tired of being terrified of an institution that is supposed to protect and serve me. I am tired of worrying about my older brother who no longer lives at home, afraid that he could be stripped away from me at any second because he likes to listen to his music loud, just like Jordan Davis did. I watched my 16 year old cousin get his license and immediately imagined his death after getting pulled over by the police, like Philando Castille. I’m tired of watching the Black boys in my life turn into men and wondering if they’ll get to live long lives, or if it will be cut short because of the complete ignorance and blatant racism that runs rampant in this country. I’m traumatized.
The only way to get real change is with real education. It’s not enough to discuss a subchapter on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in history textbooks in the 3rd grade, because that’s all that White kids, the future leaders of America, will think racism is. Racism is a spectrum, and it doesn’t start with the Klu Klux Klan and end with Jim Crow. Unless you are forced to acknowledge the real history, you won’t realize that racism didn’t start with slavery and it definetly didn’t end with desegreation. Modern racism starts with “dark humor” based on degrading stereotypes. It starts with that joke. The ones that, despite how uncomfortable we feel, we can’t call out without seeming too sensitive, so we laugh along. It segways into complete disrespect to your black peers by saying the “n-word” and even furthermore, not calling out your non-black friends who do. Unfortunately, it ends with a man, bleeding on the ground gasping “I can’t breathe” as final words…AGAIN.
I can’t say I have hope for America. It’s sad to say that I expect nothing less from a country so inherently racist that it benefits from racism everyday and will only continue to do so. The only way we will truly see Real change is if we can understand each other. Understand that if we don’t speak about these injustices, we die. We don’t have the luxury of worrying about ruining our Instagram feeds before posting about these injustices. We don’t have the luxury of worrying about ruining our public image by being “political”, because this isn’t politics; for us, it’s a matter of life and death. We’ll only see change when our allies feel as uncomfortable as we do, and call out the injustices like we have been doing for centuries. To the coaches and community members that gladly celebrate the young black bodies that give them their championships, the non-black people that claim to love their black partners and children, the people that love to indulge in any part of Black culture, whether that be the music you listen to or the way that you dress, we’re asking you to stand with us. It can’t only be up to us to demand change.
My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd. Text FLOYD to 55156 as well as JUSTICE to 668366. Donate to what you can to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund organized by Philonise Floyd on gofundme.com and sign the petition on change.org. Everything makes a difference. Thank you.