I’ll never forget the day my Mama came home with a one way ticket to Arkansas for my twin brother.
We’d literally just graduated high school and hadn’t even started to enjoy it. But her reason? She was afraid for his life. Now, I’m from Flint, Michigan. One of the worst cities in the country known for its history of violence and the main reason why my sisters and I didn’t attend local schools. My brother didn’t run in the streets but once we started losing friends to them, my Mama made the decision to send him somewhere she thought he would be safe. And as it turns out, that is not the case.
In recent news, more now than ever, the rate of which African American men have been brutally attacked and murdered by law enforcement officials has rapidly increased. Names like Sean Bell, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice have been plastered all over the news. Common factor? ALL of these young men were unarmed, defenseless and black. Why? Someone BELIEVED to have seen one with a gun, they looked suspicious, stole a cigar and was trying to stand up to a bully. One more similarity? Three out of four were killed by police officers. And none of these officers faced federal charges. Not even the self-appointed neighborhood watchman who killed a young boy because he had his hood up.
In the case of Martese Johnson, a University of Virginia Honor student, there wasn’t a reason at all. Johnson was thrown to the ground, head cracked open, knee to his back and ribs while being arrested for supposedly trying to use a fake ID to get into a club. Which has now been confirmed: NOT THE CASE. Eric Gardner, the size of a life sized teddy bear, put in a choke hold simply because of his size to be restrained but when he screamed out for mercy and cried “I CAN’T BREATHE” he wasn’t let go. He was choked until he stopped breathing.
All I ask is WHY? Why does this keep happening to MY men? MY people? What did they do to be hurt so bad that they lose their life? Or need stitches and an Instagram video to defend their mistreatment? This is what’s going on in America today and there is no worse feeling than to be helpless and unable to do anything about it but speak. I don’t have a solution. I wish I could say I knew of a way situations like these could be avoided in the future but I honestly don’t.
Many students read our paper, but I’m not sure how many watch the news. So I urge you to look up these cases yourself. Look at the photos and the proof. I know it’s not every cop and not every black male. And I’m not walking around campus with a pick in my fro, wearing all black screaming “BLACK POWER” but enough is enough.
So to my young men, I cannot tell you to be mindful of your actions in public because like Martese Johnson, even being an honor student cannot save you from who your appearance allows you to be. But do not walk in fear. Your Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. And I pray one day soon, that will be enough to save you from those who seem to not agree.