I was sitting in my hammock Wednesday, September 23rd listening to my peers talk about Black liberation and community-led safety when I heard the news. It had been a long, hard day already, even though it was only 2pm, as I sat there still reeling from the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the reality that the tragedy of her death sparks fear across the nation for the seemingly inevitable loss of human rights to come. I’ll admit, I was hardly paying attention to the world around me, too overwhelmed with the difficulties this year has wrought, when a fellow fighter for Black lives of mine relayed the news that yet again, a murder would yield no justice, when I learned that the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor would not be charged with her death.
Immediately, I was filled with grief. I was sad for the lost life and the lost lives of so many like her who aren’t valued because of the color of their skin. I was angry at the constant reminder that the world and systems in which we live were not made for people like us. And I was scared for myself, for my loved ones, for everyone in the world who looks like me and who are constantly reminded that being Black in the U.S. comes with the price of fear. We are never safe to just live. We cannot enter spaces without thinking about how our Blackness will be perceived. We cannot rest at night because even then, as the world quiets down and we lay our heads to sleep, we are seen as threats.
But mostly, I was unsurprised.
If history has taught us anything, it is that Black lives and liberation do not make the cut on the list of societal priorities, and for years that message has been continuously reinforced.
When police officers decry negative attention as unwarranted;
When Trump fights for a whitewashed history curriculum that promotes blind ignorance over the harsh realities of slavery;
When countless Black lives are ended without any form of justice;
What I and so many are hearing is “Black Lives Do Not Matter.”
It is high time for those voices to stop.
Those voices are amplified by distractions. Distractions like the technicalities of murders at the hands of police officers’ actions or the random instances of property damage during overwhelmingly peaceful protests. Distractions are anything that does not center the human lives being lost and ignored on a daily basis. Those distractions are intentionally deployed to cover up the reality that racism and bias against people of color have existed for centuries.
Anti-Black racism wasn’t eliminated with the end of slavery; it was institutionalized in new forms. It continues to find new life and feed on distractions and deceit.
The fact that disparities between people of color and white people exist in every sector of society is not a coincidence. From slavery to segregation, from health to housing, from jobs to schools, discrimination is still present today. Racism has been intentionally embedded into law and directly leads to the injustices we see, including the injustice being highlighted in our judicial system. It’ll take a long time and intentional action to root injustice out of our systems, but it can and must be done.
The protests happening all over the world are a direct response to all the Black lives ended by police officers. They are a reaction to the fact that Breonna Taylor’s lost life is not simply a tragedy, it is a reflection of the level of violence police use when engaging with communities of color. People are fighting every day to highlight the fact that the systems in place need to be changed in order to secure safety and liberation for Black people. Instead of trying to find ways to rationalize away the societally imposed pain and fear so many people hold, listen to those crying out for change. They are not doing it for fun.
They are crying out because Black lives and history must be included in every history class in every school so that Black youth can understand their past, learn about the incredible Black leaders who have fought for change, and visualize how they can become changemakers in a world that has not been built for them.
They are crying out because racial sensitivity training is a useful tool to end discrimination in the workplace. They are crying out because divesting from the police and investing in communities will promote safety and mitigate the racist system of policing. They are crying out because Breonna Taylor did not deserve to be murdered that night, and it is the systems in which we live that allowed for this tragedy to occur. Believe those who have been hurt - even if you cannot fully understand. It is the only way to create a just world, free from the pain of revisionism and racism.
Liberation is possible, but if that is to occur we must stand for change. We must stand for Black lives. We must stand for Bre.
It is high time for Black voices to be heard.