Taken at Beyoncé’s concert on July 7th | “And Countless Others”
(I’m Asian American, and I’m usually wary of speaking about topics of race that doesn’t concern my own, for the fear of overstepping the line as my role as an ally to these movements. But after recent events, and just seeing these tragedies happen over and over again, it’s hard to sit in silence. Please let me know if I’m ever overstepping boundaries. Always trying to become a better ally.)
Michael Brown’s murder was something that hit me hard. When he died, he was in the same point of his life as I was. I remember seeing the picture of him in his cap and gown everywhere and feeling so much grief. Because I was a senior in high school too, I had pictures of me in my cap and gown as well. But because of actions of police brutality and racism—things that someone like me, in my own race and location, cannot relate to—only one of us would be able to graduate.
That was the moment when it really hit me, when I became so painfully aware of the injustices at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us, and the correlation of these deaths to the community they were happening in: poor, black communities. Of course, this wasn’t the first incident of things like this happening, nor is it the last, but this spurred an outrage in me that was previously sitting dormant, just waiting to erupt.
I became so angry, so confused that this was still happening in the 21st century. But I realized that even though schools teach you that the Civil Rights Movement had its supposed end in the 1960s, they don’t teach you that there actually is no ending. There’s always a constant struggle to show oppressors and the systems in place that the lives of people of color, particularly those of darker skin tones, matter. From the slaughter of the natives to the epidemic of slavery to the rise of nativism and anti-immigration to now, where people are still fighting so hard to just live. There is no ending in sight.
I always try to imagine how these times will be written about in the history books. Because history is often written by the hands of the oppressors or the victors. Will these times be brushed over, similar to how Japanese internment camps were? Will it be called the second Civil Rights Movement, detailing how, once again, black people were fighting to live, without any acknowledgement of how the systems in place made it inevitable for it to happen again?
What names would they include?
Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Akai Gurley, that doesn’t even begin to cover it. There are so many names, so many of those who died at the hands of police brutality and incompetence. From those who are supposed to protect us, yet feel threatened by people who were unarmed or in already compromising positions. So threatened that they shoot to kill, not injure because at least injuries deflect any potential threat and injuries eventually heal, but to kill. The intention to stop a beating heart, to take the air out of someone’s lungs, to cease brain activity. To kill. And then there’s the grief that’s felt by the victim’s families and the community as a whole. Some things never heal.
And now, less than a week after this country celebrated independence, the 240th year anniversary of the preaching that “all men are created equal,” we’re in mourning after the unjust deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Both men carrying a legal gun with the proper permits in open-carry states. Both men not posing a threat, one selling CDs, one in a car with his girlfriend and her child. Both men just trying to live their lives before it was taken from them, even though their own guns were not flashed in any way. Supposedly, people have the right to carry. Unless you’re black, of course.
In this past month, they aren’t even the only ones who had their lives taken away, with others passing but having less coverage about it. There’s Delrawn Small, Stephanie Hicks, Essence Bowman, Dylan Noble. All taken away from us after altercations with the police.
When will all this end?
People roll out in the thousands after they hear news of this. They take over streets and stop traffic, with chants of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “No Justice, No Peace” and “I Can’t Breathe.” And with that strong grassroots mobilization, shared and strengthened by an even stronger social media activism for those who can’t be at the protests physically, it’s hard to imagine why there hasn’t been any changes. When comparing cases from now to years ago, whether it’s two or four or fifty, it’s so evident how things remain the same. And then there’s the fear of the same heartbreaking result as well, the lack of a punishment, indictment, or conviction. It’s so frustrating.
I think one of the most frustrating reasons is the fact that there’s no one overarching solution or problem. There are so many factors that go into these events, from racism to police brutality to socioeconomic problems to gun control to the judicial system. Where do we even start to try to make a change?
And it’s easy to feel discouraged and hopeless. I know I joke around with, “Okay, the world is falling apart, when will the world finally end,” but each day, I wake up and it feels a little bit more true. We’re in such tumultuous times and we’re heading into an unstable, unpredictable future. And it’s so easy to feel hopeless about it.
But we can’t let that hopelessness dominate us. It’s hard to keep fighting, but we have to, because the consequences of it will only be more hate and injustice. We’re given a voice, both physically and virtually. Use these tools to speak up, whether its with the people immediately around you or the entire community. Voice your frustration, tweet out your discourse.
Demand change to the systems that are failing too many.
To all the black voices out there, fighting for the right to live, my support and hope and love go out to you.
To my fellow allies, I encourage you to speak up and do something. Join in on the movement, listen to others, speak when it’s your turn. Remember, we’re here to amplify black voices, not overpower them.
There’s history in the making. Be apart of it.
And I leave you with the words of Rupi Kaur:
i cannot relate to or feel ur pain+experience but i am with you in any way you need me to be with you. lead the way.”
Rest in power.
(Special thanks to my friend, Dasola, for reading this over and being an overall powerful badass. Lots of love.)