Black Lives Matter, Period

The deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, and George Floyd have impacted me in a way I have never felt before because of the recent African American history I learned in the past six months. While reading Creating Black Americans by Nell Irvin Painter, I often flipped back through the pages to check the dates of the events I was reading about. History has repeated itself so many times it was exhausting to read about how my people have suffered but always survived, and sometimes even thrived. My previous education never helped me make connections and never taught me the importance of African American history. In the past, I learned about the Civil Rights Movement but never connected it to the unfortunate reality of slavery in the United States of America created for African Americans. 

Unlike Old World slavery, New World slavery was based upon race, was for life, and was tied to the person’s identity as long as they lived. This dehumanizing system had disastrous effects after slavery ended. During Reconstruction, the 13th Amendment contained a loophole that allowed those who committed crimes to be enslaved. The Black Codes were invented shortly thereafter to control Black people by keeping them “in their place” and restricting their mobility into the public sphere. Black people could be arrested for being in debt which was common because many Black people worked as sharecroppers where they owed money constantly for farming supplies to grow crops on land they did not own. The media controlled the image of Black people and presented them as caricatures that created stereotypes. One of the most relevant is the Black Brute, who is an African American man that is violent, subhuman, and animalistic who translates to the modern criminal stereotype that populates news media today. But the Black Codes were not enough for White Supremacists who relied upon slavery for their income, they resorted to violence to get their way.

The Jim Crow Era ushered in the Supreme Court verdict of the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. In 1892, Homer Plessy, a Black man, rode in the first-class coach in Louisiana. The railroad company kicked him out, and he sued the company. The verdict was that racial segregation was fine if it was “separate but equal” (Painter, 2007, p. 154). White supremacists were still unhappy and lynched Black people as often as they could. And often there was no justice for those who were murdered. The current situation we are in today was a product of history and that is something we cannot ignore. For four hundred years, African Americans were taught they were less than and everyone else believed it. This hurts the most. African American history is the history of America, the blood of my ancestors is in the soil, the wealth of this country was from the years of labor of African Americans, and people do not recognize these facts. We need more education and empathy because this present is too familiar to the past.

Black woman with american flagI know it’s not my job to explain my life and my truth as an African American woman in America, but I often have to. One of my friends texted me and asked, “How often do you face racism?” My immediate response was to ask her the same question because she is a woman of color and because I felt uncomfortable. She explained that she wanted to understand because of everything that is going on. I put my discomfort aside and told her about all the racist micro-aggressions I have experienced before. It made me feel better to talk about it and then I found myself explaining the history I learned in class. If more people cared like my friend did and had open conversations with Black people, then maybe there could have been more change.

I am grateful that I have not suffered all of what my people have endured, but I always keep in the back of my mind that it could have been me. I continue to Say Their Names and use my voice as a writer to end the oppression of my people. It warms my heart to see celebrities like Kendrick Sampson, Jamie Foxx, YUNGBLUD, Halsey, and Nick Cannon who are on the front lines of the protests. Black people are resilient and will continue to survive until the end of time.