Legalize Blackness

Photo courtesy of Journey Sherman

I am exhausted. I am disgusted. I, along with every other black person in America, am waiting to exhale. I am tired of writing about black people’s public executions and hoping it will be the last, but knowing it will not be. To those that are just now joining the movement, welcome and thank you, but also — where have you been? It is a privilege to get to choose to take part in this fight.  This movement is not just a hashtag or the trending topic of the week — it is our lives. Nevertheless, I am beyond grateful to see the support. If someone had told me in 2012, when Trayvon Martin was killed, that eight years later non-people of color (POC) would be fighting to legalize blackness alongside me,  I would have never believed them. 

I want to be clear when I say that the recent slaying of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor was a tipping point, not a starting point. Racism has not suddenly gotten worse; technology has just made it more accessible. Social media has created a catalyst for non-POC to gain insight into what it is like to be a black person in America. The sharing of George Floyd’s death via social media is a double-edged sword in that it is triggering to black people in a different way than if a white person were to view it. We see our dad, brother and son under the knee of centuries-old systemic racism. We see another officer being acquitted and given a slap on the wrist. As painful as watching the video is, the sharing of the brutal recording was the only way we could be heard. Ask yourself why you have never seen a video of a white person being publicly executed. Ask yourself why you need a video to feel outraged, to speak out or even to believe it. 

George Floyd was killed like an animal. In his final moments, he called out for his mother. He urinated himself. His nose bled, but he did not resist arrest. One of the most infuriating outcomes of this event was the initial autopsy report released, which claimed that a major factor leading to his death was Floyd’s “preexisting health conditions.” So are we supposed to believe that it was not a man kneeling on his neck for nearly ten minutes that killed him, but rather heart disease? Did the man with a noose around his neck die of a stomach ache? I don’t buy it! To me, it seems like being Black in America is a preexisting condition. 

The protests and subsequent looting that occurred after Floyd’s death can only be described as a symptom of police brutality. You tell us to peacefully protest, but we have been trying that for over half of a century. Peaceful figures are still verbally lynched by the media if they aren’t assassinated in real life.  We have tried every way under the sun to get the attention of non-POC and yet we are still here. Instead of sharing your White commentary on Black bodies, denounce racism. You may not think you need to share your opinion on social media, but it isn’t for you, it is to create an educated dialogue with other White followers. The only way progress will ever be made is for everyone to see this as an “us vs. racism” issue and not a Black vs. White issue. This can be a thin line to walk on social media, but the first step is knowing your place. Check your privilege and provide safety and support.  No more “Whitesplaining” MLK Jr. quotes in an effort to stop the violent protests and looting. Do not say he wouldn’t want all this violence and destruction. He was killed and it only further proves our point.  

Black lives cannot be commodified. I do not care about your Target or any other large corporations getting looted. These actions cannot bring back those that we have lost, but they sure as hell make a point. Your anger over the destruction of multi-million dollar chain stores should not match your anger for the loss of life. Let’s not forget that this country was built on our backs. This is stolen land and we are stolen people. We are begging for the open season on us to end. Period. 

For every one person that’s protesting for the wrong reason, there are 1,000 people protesting for the right reasons. I cannot speak to the composition of every crowd protesting, but I know a large majority of those there would like the protest to remain peaceful.  This is the beginning of a revolution. The world is beginning to take notice that the Black Lives Matter movement is here to stay. Say George Floyd’s name, but also remember: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and so many others.