By Ashley Young
February 26, 2012. To many Americans, this is just a regular day. To Sybrina Fulton and the black community, it’s a day of painful remembrance: the death of a brother, Trayvon Martin. It was that Sunday that Trayvon walked to his local 7-eleven in a hoodie and purchased an iced-tea and skittles. Walking back home, watch-captain George Zimmerman took notice of Martin. He called 911 and said the 17-year-old looked “real suspicious.” The operator told the captain authorities were on their way and not to pursue the teen, but Zimmerman did otherwise. He stopped Trayvon Martin and the two allegedly ended up in a physical altercation, which only came to a stop as a single bullet was fired from Zimmerman’s gun. The black teenager fell to the ground with a bloodied hole in his chest. When authorities arrived, they proclaimed the black teen dead, and his body was tagged and held. Zimmerman was questioned and released.
Trayvon Martin’s story of “a black man shot under false assumption” is one of many. There have been countless pre- and post-occurring murders of black men. Such deaths, most notably Trayvon Martin’s, have become catalysts for the Black Lives Matter and My Brother’s Keeper movements. It is of no surprise that such activism has started. For years and years, it has been made apparent that black lives don’t matter. From slavery to lynch mobs, imprisonment to Jim Crow laws, and finally to police brutality, black people have never been treated as human. In his article “Which Black Lives Matter?” Xhercis Méndez explains that “structural inequalities can best be understood as the sets of conditions (persistent poverty, lack of access to health care, school- to- prison pipeline) and institutions (the legal system, heteropatriarchy) that ensure some communities or group members are systematically denied access to their full rights as citizens and relegated to a lesser humanity.” The African-American community is tired of being treated this way. They don’t want to be regarded as less than when they know they are more than what “massah” claims them to be. Black people have never been given a fair advantage and the many statistics of 1 in 3 black men are presumed to be imprisoned and “the war on drugs” primarily based in black neighborhoods are just a few examples of black’s pejorative attitude towards years and years of systematic abuse. Black people have realized it is time for a change and have taken years of piled up black bodies as proof of such radicalism.
The Black Lives Matter movement has become a beacon of hope for blacks and communion among one another. Through the collective raising of black fists and “#BlackLivesMatter,” black people have found a sense of belonging. They have fused together as one in hopes of breaking the habitual destructive silence towards the death of blacks. My Brother’s Keeper even simplified their activism primarily for black males as “the initiative was and continues to be an effort to address the individual barriers to social mobility for racialized males. These efforts have included providing mentorship and employment opportunities to create a path toward the middle class and creating policies that would work to minimize the disparities for youth of color.”
As a black woman, I have dealt with racial prejudice, but they do not come in the forms of such extremities as police brutality, imprisonment, or lack of healthcare. Growing up in a white community, I’ve been called names such as “Omarion,” “Future,” “21 Savage,” and other black artists. I’ve been told that I come from Africa and that I’m a “spear-chucker” and using “n_gger” around me. I’ve also had to deal with people talking about my fellow black people in a bad light: they are lazy, eat nothing but fried chicken, and were hosed down in the 1950’s etc. At one point or another, I would be made sure that I was different and less than my white classmates, coworkers, and neighbors. Although they were being said to me, no one that was white ever defended me. Instead, they stayed silent and expected me to just suck it up. One girl told me that a boy who made constant racist remarks to me “had no sense of style” and that I “shouldn’t pay attention to him.” Rather than call it out as it is, she just stuffed the problem under the carpet and let the verbal abuse continue. Though I do not pay any mind to what is being said, it serves as a good learner to see who is willing to back me up. Movements such as Black Lives Matter has always stood up against the racists that I encounter throughout my life. These groups are my haven and finally provide that aggressive, loud attitude against racism. I’ve found a place to call home, a place where my skin isn’t an outlier. I’m compared to sun goddesses, and I don’t have to be afraid about racist remarks being made towards my people.
We are more than just police killings and stereotypes. We will make it apparent that we will not be silent. We will honor the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and other black brothers and sisters and fight the system that has enslaved us. Blacks are people. And together, we are united against the hate that enslaved us. Our voices shall be heard, and we will not be swept under the carpet of oppression. even if we have to march the streets once again.