How Many More?

How Many More?

Photo Credit: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP

To be a black person in America is to accept the underlying companion of survival mode. It’s there when we wake up, when we leave our homes, and when we try to make a living. As we enter boardrooms, department stores, and engage in recreational activities - it meets us with a sly grin. Even when you work to engage with things like success and happiness, you are one instance away from being attached to it again. Our reward - our penance is survival.

Instead of listening, black people are met with conjecture. We are always confronted with the response that we are the causes of our own injustices. We are the causes of our own wounds and lashes. On April 20th, there was a “Reopen America” protest in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  The next week, protesters tried to storm the Michigan House of Representatives building. Many of those same protestors were armed with guns such as assault rifles. No arrests. Not even a major quarrel.

In the protests in reference to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, there was tear gas thrown and rubber bullets. Eerie shades of Ferguson, Missouri. Citizens of America being treated as foreigners. One of the slogans of the anti-quarantine protestors was the famous line from Patrick Henry’s 1775’s speech, “give me liberty or give me death.” Only a certain type of people are afforded a chance at liberty.

Black people wish that they had the luxury of protesting simply because they didn’t want to wear a mask or they wanted to go back to work. Now, we have to protest another unjust killing in a time where being in groups is highly risky. Tear gas? COVID-19 runs rampant on the respiratory system. This is where “being one of the good ones” doesn’t necessarily save us.

Photo Credit: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP

As coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout the country, the concept of time has unraveled. It’s like the threads on your old, favorite t-shirt. Days have melted together and with yet another case of a black person dying, it’s business as usual. It always has been. From the Tulsa Race Riots in 1921, the almost 100-year existence of Jim Crow laws, the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, and recently, the gutting of the voting rights act.

This is why I get offended when my non-white friends claim ignorance. History is just a google search away faster than you can say ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.’ Racism is embedded in the DNA of this country. Before we can even move towards a resolution, those who commit racism and benefit from it have to acknowledge it. They have to not be wilfully dismissive of it. Choosing to not see color is actively participating in the ugly cycles that we find ourselves in again.

I write all this to ask you, the reader - how many more? How many more Sandra Blands? How many more Breonna Taylors? Tamir Rices? Ahmaud Arberys? Alton Sterlings? How many more George Floyds’ have to happen? Sure, these names look great on your Pinterest wall as a poster, but these were lives. Real people. Real families that were impacted by their losses.

America loves black people when they can produce things to provide an escape for them. Our art. Our culture. Our intelligence. You sing along to our melodies. You quote the words of our heroes on holidays. You TikTok our dances. Will you stand beside that black friend you have when it counts? Will you call out racism within your circles, your homes, and your group chats? Where’s our escape? What would you like us to do? Go to the park? Can’t do that. Maybe a gym? Nope, can’t do that, either. People like Amy Cooper and Tom Austin have chosen to weaponize law enforcement against us. The reality is - there are Amy Coopers and Tom Austins everywhere. Signing checks and making personnel decisions.

Our reality is a knee to the back of the head that gets replayed on our phone and T.V. screens like a Sportscenter highlight montage. Our reality is our old friend - survival mode.

In 2014, Eric Garner’s last words were, “I Can’t Breathe.” Lord knows Hollywood loves their sequels - and black death, tears, and pain are on the studio lot. Six years later, George Floyd is handcuffed and arrested for forgery with four officers around and one with a knee to his throat. Floyd called for his mother and said that everything hurt. I’m sure that there will be news outlets scouring his past and letting you know that he was no angel. Perhaps, he stole a pack of gum when he was five. Nobody is disputing a crime occurred - it’s that black people somehow don’t end up surviving past them. No mistakes. No do-overs.

Can I sit here and honestly say to you that instances like this won’t happen again? No. I give you a resounding no. More than likely, I’ll be right back in this chair typing another version of this again. It’s already been decided that the worth of black lives is antiquated down to the number of retweets and likes they get showcasing their struggles a while ago. I’ve spoken. I will continue to speak. The words of Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin still reverberate within me. When will you speak for me instead of speaking to me?

Just imagine what would happen if phones didn’t have cameras on them. Imagine what’s happening in places where that is the case. Firings need to turn into convictions. Black voices of anger need to turn into all voices of anger. The sarcastic slogan of ‘All Lives Matter’ needs to factor black lives into it. People will point to the current riots and say, “what more do they want?” or “they are destroying their own neighborhoods!” They’ll ignore the quote from the man that they refer to so often when it’s convenient in Martin Luther King J.R. said, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” No one is condoning looting or destroying property. However, I’m asking when are our lives going to be as important as property?

I can end this with a call for change, but change already started with me. It started with people generations before me. My act of defiance is taking a breath every day. Something that I don’t take for granted. I can’t now. Every gasp of air I take is hope. When are you going to step up to the plate? How many more? I don’t want to be a slogan or a hashtag for you to figure out my intangible worth. I shouldn’t have to die to give people something to fight for.