I can’t speak for anyone else, but I like to process things through lists. Something about a good list calms me down and makes everything feel a little more manageable. So, for today’s feature, I would like to share my insight as a Black woman in America. As a student at a predominantly white institution (PWI) I have witnessed firsthand how hard and even uncomfortable it can be to start these conversations, but it is beyond crucial to do so. At the end of the day, police brutality is not just a problem for Black people to deal with, it’s an American problem.
1. The Black community is not a monolith
Black people in American are unfortunately and unavoidably connected by our trauma. No matter what side of the political aisle you associate with, it is impossible to completely avoid the consequences of systemic racism. Because of this, it may feel logical to lump us into one group, but this could not be further from the truth. Every human’s life experience will be unique, and I believe that uniqueness is what makes us beautiful. So as you (hopefully) continue reading my next few points, remember that these thoughts are my own and are not a broad representation of any community to which I belong.
2. The fight for racial equity does not end with the results of one jury verdict
As the nation and the world watched the Derick Chauvin trial in the case of the murder of George Floyd, many celebrated the jury decision to convict Chauvin on all three charges- second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder. But as I watched I felt a range of bittersweet emotions for several reasons. The only true form of justice for George Floyd would be if he were alive today- to grow as a person, take care of his daughter and be a light to his family and friends. No one deserves to have their life cut short at the hands of a police officer, no matter what they have done. I vividly remember every time I became aware of another Black person killed at the hands of police and every time I think of my father, my uncles, my siblings, my cousins and the list goes on. All black, and all vulnerable to the potential of police violence- at the mercy of a nation who refuses to release its most revered tradition: systemic racism.
Moments before the Court announced police in Columbus, Ohio shot and killed a child named Ma’Khia Bryant. Yet another young life gone entirely too soon. The news of her tragic death solidified in my mind that the problem we are facing as a nation is not one that can be solved by one man’s conviction. The system of policing needs to be redefined in order for there to be true justice.
Not to mention the countless victims of police brutality who have yet to receive justice or even accountability. Society’s collective memory can be faulty at times, and in this age of never-ending news cycles, it can be easy to forget the names of victims who a few short months ago were plastered on protest signs and Instagram stories. So while I celebrate the jury’s decision to hold Derick Chauvin accountable, I simultaneously mourn for all of the Black and Brown lives who have been brutalized by the system of policing only to be forgotten in the public eye and those whose stories never even made it to national news.
3. The Balancing Act
As I mentioned already, black people are not a monolith, therefore I will not speak for anyone else but myself, but in my personal experience, following this trial was emotionally, mentally and physically draining. So much so that even if I turned the news feeds off and tuned out of social media, my mind has a hard time focusing on anything other than the trial and the surrounding protests. In my opinion, society has become so desensitized to constant violence, but I will not allow violence to be normalized in my mind. This can take a toll. Even in the midst of this movement for racial equity in policing, life still goes on: school assignments are still due and the laundry won’t wash itself. So enters this balancing act: a fine line between staying informed and blocking out the news when it becomes too intense to manage. If I’ve learned anything during my struggle with this balancing act, it’s that self-care is so important. If you find yourself in the same position as me, try doing something kind for yourself (even if it's small and even if it doesn’t initially feel like it will help). It’s impossible to play a meaningful role in this or any movement if you're not first taking care of yourself.
4. “My Daddy changed the world”
These were the words of George Floyd’s daughter in a viral video that circulated throughout social media and they have had a strong impact on me as I’ve processed the recent events involving police brutality. Too often Black girls are forced to grow up too soon. In this case, this young child has been forced to cope with losing a father whose death was broadcasted in the national spotlight. While it’s important to acknowledge the momentum that the death of George Floyd has had on our nation, it is equally important to recognize that it should have never had to come to this. On top of so many other factors, this little girl losing her father is too high of a price to pay. As her young face is broadcast throughout social media, I could not help but see the silhouette of every little Black girl in America forced to grow up too soon. The thought of this should be enough to provoke meaningful changes to the American institution of policing. The path toward equality should not require the loss of another Black father.
As I grow and learn, my opinions adjust to what I know. But at this moment, these five thoughts are circulating in my mind, and listing them is a great way to process these emotions. As a Black woman, I have to keep fighting for justice and using my voice when I can to bring light to these issues. I hope each reader resonated with something, and if nothing else I hope to spark further conversation so we all grow and work towards eradicating racism in all of its forms.