July 8, 2016.
Tears stain my face. I’m exhausted.
I’m really exhausted.
I’m sitting in the dark, in my small room in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, about four hours from the border of Mexico. I have not been home since Christmas and I am approximately 2,700 miles away, but I feel it all. All of it.
Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me” blasts on my speakers.
“When the lights shut off and it’s my turn to settle down, my main concern, promise that you will sing about me, promise that you will sing about me…”
“I woke up this morning and figured I’d call you, in case I’m not here tomorrow, I’m hoping that I can borrow a peace of mind.”
Where do I start this time? You tell me where I start? Are you there God? It’s me, Tianna.
Two days ago, two Black men were killed in two completely different states in the United States of America at the hands of White police officers.
One man was unarmed, the other let the police know he had a permit.
I stare at the news blankly. Why am I numb? Why are we so desensitized to this?
You can find both murders on Google and watch the full videos.
You can watch someone die.
I will let that sink in.
“But I’m exhausted, but fuck that sorry for your loss
I am angry. I am sad. I am hurt. I am confused. Why aren’t we loved? I am nursing wounds that other people do not understand, throwing their “All Lives Matter” all over my Facebook timeline. We are not saying everyone does not matter, we are JUST focusing on the disparity of unarmed African Americans that are being killed in our cities, on our streets. We are doing nothing wrong, just existing.
You. Just. Got. Blocked. This is a great time to clean your timelines of all the racists young adults that you went to middle school with that have not evolved and cannot comprehend the pain of Black people AND the existence of White privilege. Take advantage of this time. Block away. Take note of those friends of yours that do not speak up.
Stay off of social media. Call your brother and tell him you love him. Limit yourself to the news every couple of days. Heal. Repeat.
My Black Brothers and Sisters are being killed on video camera and the White cops get off, damn near every single time.
According to the United States Census Bureau, police killed 1,152 people in 2015. The US Black population is 13%, but 30% of the victims were black (US Census Bureau).
“IN 2015, 97% OF (BLACK) DEATHS WERE NOT FOLLOWED BY ANY CHARGES AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS” (www.mappingpoliceviolence.org, US Census Bureau).
“Am I worth it? Did I put enough work in?”
What do I tell my 19-year-old brother, a sophomore in Computer Science at UNC? My almost 22-year-old cousin that just graduated from college and started a job in Nebraska? My father? My older cousins, Black males. My father, my uncles, my friends, my loved ones…
Our after school programs are diminishing due to budget cuts; you ignore the poverty, disregard the institutionalized racism, the lack of fair educational and job opportunities, our segregated schools, the high number of African Americans in jails across the country, the crime, the socioeconomic gap, the unemployment rates, the gentrification of our neighborhoods, the unfair police stops, and the violent, senseless, inhumane murders of Our People at the hands of White police officers.
You have mass shootings at the hands of white men that kill children at schools, at movie theaters, at churches, at parks… The list goes on. The news depicts the White murderer as “mentally ill,” but gives detailed, yet wonderful, background information about their loving home life, how well-educated the family is, their socio-economic status, how much they just loved their dear mother, etc.
We can’t breathe. We still cannot breathe.
And you ask us why we are angry?
Black men and women in the news are portrayed as criminals. We get killed on video camera; the murderers receive administrative leave AND pay where they develop GoFundMe pages to raise money for legal fees, and then the officer does not receive any time. Repeat.
Even the most reputable news sources use the word “thug” or “criminal” and use mugshots of us. The way African Americans are depicted in this country is disgusting. It is awful. Go to Google.com and type in “3 black teenagers” vs. “3 white teenagers.” The results will leave you with mugshots and criminal photos of Black teenagers and white teenagers smiling and playing sports.
If you really want to be surprised, go to Google images and type in “beauty” and see how many women of color are displayed. See how long you have to scroll before you find 10.
There are Black women and men doing great things in this world, giving back to our communities, graduating from college, exposing ourselves to different cultures in other countries, learning, growing, building and providing stable, positive, foundations for our youth, teaching, working hard to feed our families, having open, honest conversations, being mentors, working in Fortune 500 Companies, starting our own businesses in our neighbors, attending our churches, putting money into food donations, encouraging each other, helping each other, the list goes on and on. Why does the media not show this???
We want to be equals.
WE DESERVE TO BE EQUALS.
We want justice.
I want some white people to stop talking to me about reverse racism, affirmative action, and how some of them feel racism impacts OUR community. How can you give opinions about something that you have not experienced? You can listen to our stories and our pain, you can protest with us, you can join our communities, you can educate your friends. Don’t tell me how I should feel.
My Black parents taught my little brother and I how we should interact with police officers. I understand, not all police officers are bad, the issue at the end of the day is that we are just Black. That’s it.
“Put your hands on the wheel and do not move until the police officer arrives at the window. Say the word “sir.” Don’t let it linger on your tongue to show disrespect. Don’t do this. Before you reach for your license, tell the officer what you are doing. Try to maintain calm, show a smile even.”
“Do what it takes so you can make it back home.”
I can tell you about the time I still had braces, just turned 16 and got my license. I was driving home before my 9:00pm curfew. I got pulled over by a white police officer in my hometown of Durham, North Carolina and to this day, 8 years later, I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous. Why I got pulled? The police officer stopped me because “he didn’t think the car was mine.” He let me go after I told him that I had my registration and insurance in the glove compartment and asked if I could retrieve the requested information. I will never forget how the light from his flashlight danced around my face and the inside of my car.
I’ve experienced racism all over the world. The world hates the color black, but loves our culture. The furthest away from home that I’ve been is Hong Kong, followed by Thailand, a couple of countries in Europe when I lived in Spain, and Morocco in Northern Africa. I’ve experienced racism in all of these places and most of the time, I was alone.
All because of the color of my skin.
All because of the color of my skin.
Who the hell decided in 2016 that someone with my skin color isn’t worthy of life, of equal opportunities, of choices, of equality, of fair treatment?
I write this because I can’t keep it inside. I can’t watch another video. I refuse. I can’t see another news headline. After two years of living abroad in other countries, I will be home for good in August.
Every morning I blast “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar until this latest trauma heals.
Will it heal?
“Wouldn’t you know, we’ve been hurt, been down before. When our pride was low, looking at the world like-
“Where do we go…?”
we hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho……..”
“I’m at the preacher’s door, my knees getting weak, and my gun might blow but we gonna be alright…”
I write because I want to start a conversation.
What can we do for our communities?
How do we build our communities to be more supportive, resourceful, and healing than ever?
How can we get involved?
What would MLK Jr. do at a time like this?
How can we fight back?
(Violence and hate are obviously not the answers).
What about boycotts? Protests? What can we do?
How can we help each other in these times?
How do we grieve in a healthy way?
How do we overcome and meet our goals, our demands for equal treatment in this country?
“Do you hear me, do you feel me, we gonna be alright, we gonna be alright………………”