“Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday,” stated a passionate Jesse Williams during this year’s 2016 BET Awards, “so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive by on 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.” At the moment, we could already resonate with his speech considering the innocent lives that have been lost over the years, but a little less than two weeks since, two more names have been added to the list he formed to highlight today’s injustices against black people, men in particular. Now it’s time to wonder what Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile would have to say about our so called progression.
One a father of five killed in front of the establishment where he sold CDs, the other a popular worker at a school cafeteria pulled aside for what was supposedly “a broken taillight.” What do they have in common? They’re both individuals victimized and recklessly killed for living while black. Wearing a hooded sweater, driving a car and playing in the park is somehow worthy of an unanticipated eradication of our people yet as Williams expressed in the aforementioned speech, “We know that police somehow manage to de escalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday.” We witness it daily but yet they say we live in a post racial society.
Though social media has accelerated the spread of awareness, these ruthless killings of black men have long existed, so far in time that most have been conditioned to accept what Eurocentric education deems our beginnings in slavery. Who we were prior to this is what they’ve attempted to conceal. However, Williams said it best when he said that “The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.”
It is obvious that these inexcusable crimes result from hatred but the idea that this stems from a difference in complexion doesn’t suffice. One of my favorite quotes by George Bernard Shaw is “hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.” Just as natives are and have been intimidated by immigrants, some white people are threatened by us. They understand our power, our dominance, our ability to adapt and survive on land. Their admiration of our “magic” upon discovering us in Africa is what led to our enslavement, the theft of our culture, the diminution of our worth and every ounce of our being. Despite relocating us for their benefits, the resentment built against us for being magical continues to manifest itself in current day. So, with every step of progression comes a few steps of regression as the system embeds an inferior mentality in our people.
The question is what now? Is it possible for such a deeply cut wound to heal? Can we come back from years worth of pain and suffering? Do we have any more fight in us? The truth is we won’t know unless we stand in solidarity. We won’t find out unless we try. We will find no answer if our efforts stop at hashtagging. We will not know what to fight for until we educate ourselves on what it was exactly that we lost and once we figure it out, we won’t stop until our existence and influence is appropriately acknowledged.
Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move
Freedom, cut me loose!
Freedom! Freedom! Where are you?
Cause I need freedom too!
I break chains all by myself
Won’t let my freedom rot in hell
Hey! I’ma keep running
Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves
Some may recognize this verse from Beyonce’s “Freedom,” a song off her highly acclaimed album Lemonade. Much like her other projects, her collaboration with Kendrick Lamar was strategically planned. As two individuals who embody the true essence of black empowerment, the message is loud and clear: We are magic, we are real, and we are winners. The sooner we realize this, the sooner our revolution will begin and trust me when I say, quitting is not an option.