Voices That Call for Justice

It was Monday at 1:00 am when I woke up to loud noise, police cars and helicopters. I’d been staying at my friend’s apartment for the week. It was on the 35th floor of a downtown building in Austin. 

When I went on the balcony, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had seen it on the news, on Twitter and every other social media platform. There it was – fire a few blocks away. It seemed unreal. Almost apocalyptical. Everyone on the surrounding buildings was also on their balconies, looking on at what was happening. 

Austin had finally joined the rest of the nation in demanding justice for George Floyd. They were urging for no more blood to be spilled. As terrified as I was, I was also moved by the strength of the Black Lives Matter movement. All of the voices claiming to be heard. Calling for for the government to see them. They would not let the U.S. government continue to turn a blind eye. The people in the streets would not take no for an answer. They demanded justice. 

Black lives matter protest Photo by Nicole Baster from Unsplash

As I looked around, I felt guilty for standing on the balcony. So far away from everything. A very real representation of privilege. We were people living in 40-story buildings, looking down at people who have to fight for their basic civil rights. The right to not be murdered because of their skin color. Meanwhile, we watched on and reassured ourselves that this could not reach us. Safe in our balconies. Safe in our privilege.

I’m a minority in the United States, a Mexican woman. The President of the United states has labeled me a “bad person” because of the country I was born in. I’ve experienced racism. People don’t believe I can do certain things, they look down at me, and they fetishize my nationality. 

Still, my experiences cannot compare to the ones of those who are suffering right now. I don’t walk around with a target behind my back. As a college student, I’m protected by the privilege granted to me by my economic status, education and appearance as a white-passing heterosexual Latina. 

Black Lives Matter sign holders, protesters Photo by Johnny Silvercloud from Flickr

However, I still find myself trying to hide my accent or make it less evident that I am from another culture. I do it out of fear that someone will harm me in this polarized community where minorities are looked down upon. I’ve experienced frustration towards this reality, although I imagine it isn’t 1 percent of what people in these communities are feeling. I understand and support their anger. I wish I knew better ways to help. I wish I wasn’t up here in this balcony but down there with them. 

Evidently, I can’t say I’ve experienced anything close to what the African American community goes through. But I know what it feels like to have your voice has been taken away from you. I experienced sexual assault a couple years ago, and recently I was silenced by authorities in Mexico because the man that assaulted me had power, resources, and the favor of the law. I’ve been angry ever since. I can’t focus because I’m just so mad. 

Along with my voice, they took my identity and strength. It’s been such a hard path trying to get that back. I want to scream. I want to riot. I know I don’t stand alone, but I am afraid. I’m proud of the Black Lives Matter movement because they are not. They are demanding what is rightfully theirs. Something I was too scared to do when I was oppressed. 

Protester holding sign that says Photo by Clay Banks from Unsplash

That is the thing with privilege. When you know something is not right, you assert your privilege by not doing anything about it. You stay silent.

I admire the people out there, speaking their mind and urgently calling for justice. They might be afraid, but they are brave. Putting their lives on the line because they know that the perpetuators of violence cannot get away with this. These people are done being silenced, and  I wish I was as brave as they are. 

Writing for Her Campus gives me a platform, so I’d like to share links to videos and articles that need to be seen. We must educate ourselves and do everything in our power to become allies to the Black Lives Matter movement. That is the rightful thing to do. 

At the end of the day, you never know when life is going to bring you down from that 35th floor balcony. Then, it may be your voice that is silenced.