Protest Often: Young Black Men Matter, Black Lives Matter
“Love Actually” begins with a cheesy voiceover narrated by Hugh Grant. Grant says, with strained sincerity, that “love, actually, is all around.” Well, you know what, actually, is all around these days? Racism, stupidity, and bigotry.
Sorry to be such a killjoy, but the last six months have really brought me down…
Why am I filled with doom and gloom? Since Eric Garner’s death on July 17th, an insane number of unarmed black men (and in one case, a 12-year-old boy) have been killed by police officers. And these types of deaths are nothing new. Young black men have been getting unjustly killed in America for years.
To add insult to injury, the officers that were involved in Garner and Michael Brown’s (Brown was the young black man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. on August 9) deaths were not indicted by their respective Grand Juries. The news of Darren Wilson, Brown’s killer, not getting indicted hit me like a gut punch. “But there was no video,” people said. “How can you really know for sure?” Then came the news that Garner’s killer wasn’t going to be indicted, either. That death is on tape. You can distinctly hear him fainting yelling, “I can’t breathe.”
How in the hell can these incidents continue to happen? I guess if I’m totally honest, I’m not surprised for a few reasons.
While I grew up in a hippie, civil rights spewing household, many of my peers did not. I come from northeastern Kansas. This is a very white, conservative region. Many of my acquaintances in junior high and high school were openly bigoted. I know too well what a lot of people think when they see a black man (or a black woman, for that matter). These people – these sad, ignorant people – get scared. Their fear leads to taunting, and the taunting eventually leads to a sense of entitlement. These types of people are everywhere, though. They aren’t all centered in my small hometown.
Over the past few months it has become increasingly apparent that there are people everywhere who think that black lives don’t matter. Sure, these people probably don’t frame their opinions in such a stark manner, but when you’re openly criticizing people for protesting unjust deaths, you are part of the problem. We need protest. We need uprising. If people don’t fight back with words, protests, and letters, then institutional racism will continue.
Another reason why I’m not surprised that “this” is all happening is because of my experience as a female victim of violence. When I first began to disclose to people that I had been assaulted, I was often met with questions like, “are you sure? Did you lead him on? Did you do something?” These questions are the same types of questions that many women who get assaulted hear, and this is why many of them don’t go to the authorities. There is an inherent distrust of people taking you – a woman’s – accusation seriously.
Now, this experience is in no way similar to unjust shootings and killings of unarmed black men. I have no idea what it’s like to be black. All I know is what it feels like to be scared and in public, not knowing if I’m safe — I often feel like everyone (men, women, young and old) is a threat. I can only imagine that that feeling is felt by many black people, a million times over, when they are walking down a street, minding their own business, and a cop car suddenly slows.
The only way that the public can rally behind our fellow citizens and support young black males is to continue to protest. Make noise — let authorities know that none of this is OK. “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and “I Can’t Breathe,” are the new battle cries that everyone – white, black… whatever – needs to exclaim loudly and often. We can’t stop. Black lives matter.
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Image: Tim Pierce
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