Oscar Grant. Stephon Clark. Sean Bell. Freddie Gray. Akai Gurley. Amadou Diallo. Malice Wayne Green. Eric Garner. Walter L. Scott. Timothy Stansbury.
Hear their names. At least this once.
Above are ten, just ten names of African-American men who have been murdered unjustly at the hands of authority in the past thirty years. However, for the men listed, only 50% received justice for their deaths. Of the people who took these ten men’s lives, only five incidents were ever prosecuted and five people held accountable in this system we praise to bring so called ‘justice’. Let it sink in. This is our world.
As I read through articles, court proceedings and press releases covering the deaths of these men, I felt absolutely disgusted. We all should be. Since the introduction of slavery in 1619, it seems we have never been able to understand that pigment is no defining factor of an individuals worth. It is agonizing yet enraging to see, name after name, of African-American people who have been dehumanized. The names of people who should be living at this very moment. This is our world.
In times like these, it has been hard to sort out what is fact and what is fiction. However, this renewed movement and its message has never been so clear. The rights of an entire people cannot be undermined, regardless of differences that authorities may see. A policing badge is NOT consent to take a person’s life, and certainly does not validate such abysmal actions. A uniform does NOT suddenly give you the power to believe that you and your values dominate those of others. It is a known fact, be it accepted or not, that NO position of power justifies any of these lost lives. Yet we are still having this argument, African-Americans are facing these same struggles and those with the power to influence others are not taking enough action. This is our world.
But through what many may perceive to be a dark time, we seem to be turning a corner. We have all been given the time to recognize our privilege, and I am delighted to see that many of us have pointed out our position on this unspoken global hierarchy. We have rallied together, regardless of our privilege, and shown each other not just support, but our commitment towards beginning global reform. Perspective matters, and unconscious bias does exist. The death of George Floyd did more than spark outrage, it brought to light difficult yet necessary discussions that we must have with ourselves and others on the topic of racism. This may just be the beginning, but educating ourselves about actions we can take -big or small- will bring us all one step closer towards a future which an entire population has been waiting to see. And I am proud to say, this is our world.
“You shot me, I got a four-year-old daughter!” “Please.” “I love you.” “I can’t breathe.” “No.” “Mom, I’m going to college.” “Wait.” “I can’t breathe.” “They tased me.” “Why.”
Those, respectively, are the last words of each of the men listed above. Please, never forget what their deaths stood for. This movement is more than a trend, hundreds of years worth of oppression and mistreatment cannot be summed up into a trending hashtag. Their lives mattered. Its okay to be angry, but in a time of divide we desperately need to come together and fix this horrid reality. I will probably never find the proper words to sum up this movement and the action we must take, but that is okay. George Floyd’s death itself spoke volumes, and we alongside the world will do the rest.