After watching the video of John Crawford’s execution yesterday, I couldn’t even bring myself to cry. I’ve become so accustomed to hearing about the unjustified murders of my people that I am almost immune to the sorrow they bring. But as much as I would like to pretend that these deaths don’t affect me anymore, the truth is that they’ve changed my life in the worst way imaginable.
I have been in a state of despair ever since George Zimmerman walked free after killing Trayvon Martin. Over a year later, Mike Brown’s death sent me into full blown depression. I literally laid in the bed for a week, glued to my phone, checking Twitter every 10 seconds for the latest update on the disintegration of my rights, wondering when the horrors of Ferguson would reach my city.
I wish there were words to describe how it feels to know that your life could be taken at any moment, in any place, regardless of what you’re doing or where your hands are. To know that the people you trust to serve and protect you could slaughter you in the street, on video, and not be held accountable is beyond demoralizing. As difficult as it is to convince yourself to keep living under such horrifying conditions, it’s a wonder that we are still here, with our dignity and hope in tact.
While mainstream media wants you to believe that our anger is unwarranted, our frustration is much more than displaced outrage. At the heart of every protest and petition is a silent cry for help. More than anything else, we simply want to live. Equality and justice only matter to us so much as we’re alive to see the changes we’re risking our lives for.
It’s taken me over a month to write this because I don’t know what else there is to say. People have been fighting for our right to exist in this country for centuries, and yet here we are, still mourning the loss of another brother every 28 hours. I have exhausted all of the possible reasons why this is still happening: inadequate police training, negative portrayals of minorities in the media, the high-stress environments cops encounter every day. I even consider the type of mornings they have, as if the worst day imaginable could justify shooting to kill unarmed civilians.
But after many unsuccessful attempts to explain why a man would shoot a teenager with his hands up in surrender, I’ve concluded that, for my sanity’s sake, I must stop trying to make sense of that which isn’t logical and forgive you.
As much as I want to hate you and the systemic racism you represent, I realize that my resentment is damaging me more than anyone else. The truth is that I’m scared of you. We all are. We run when we’re told to stand still because we know what you’re capable of. We brandish our cameras like weapons because they’re the only form of ammunition that might save our life. We’re high-strung off a history of organized oppression, so forgive us for making sudden movements and pulling “the race card” every time our fears become realized.
We’ve run out of options. No peace rally, town hall meeting, or “know your rights” training session can protect us from the very real danger that is being Black in America. We’ve heard the lynching stories and have seen the footage for ourselves. These fatal scenarios have been engrained in our collective psyche to the point of paranoia—except our suspicions are valid.
Politics aside, it’s time to have serious conversations about how to move forward. I am exhausted just from being alive. I am physically and emotionally tired of watching cops murder our children with no remorse or consequence. But in order to end the terrifying cycle of police brutality, this country needs more than discussion.
We need you to come forward and acknowledge your biases. We need you to admit where you fell short and agree to face the consequences. We need you to tell us what Mike Brown and John Crawford could have done to stay alive, other than be white. We need you to commit to being a better police force that services the people, rather than yourself.
We have organized, mobilized, protested, marched, cried, sung, wrote, and gathered around these issues for decades. We’re in this position again not because we haven’t fought hard enough, but because you’re not fighting with us.
While I desperately want to see justice and equality realized in our lifetime, I’m asking for the right to simply BE above all else. Without the guarantee that I’m free to walk down the street or sleep peacefully in my own house, I’m unable to function properly, let alone thrive.
I’m tired of having to explain why we—Black men and women, boys and girls—deserve our basic human rights to life, dignity, and the pursuit of whatever it is we’re working towards, but I am willing to write a letter to every cop in America if it will prevent another senseless killing.
Please stop murdering our children. I cannot bear to add another name to the list.