When I scrolled through Facebook today, I noticed that Louisiana police allegedly arrested over dozens of activists at Black Lives Matter protests because they will not tolerate blocking traffic, but what struck me more is that instead, they will tolerate violence against black bodies in the United States. They will tolerate the murders of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Aiyana Jones, Amadou Diallo, and literally hundreds of others who did not deserve to die when they did, but what they will not tolerate is the assertion of the value of black life.
It’s no secret that North America has a gruesome history when it comes to the (mis)treatment of people of color, so it’s interesting to me that so many people are willing to dismiss the idea that perhaps, the legacy of white supremacy still lives on. It’s interesting to me that so many people can exercise their right of free speech to shout “all lives matter” at the top of their lungs when black people are standing up and speaking out, but forget the phrase the moment a person of color is being killed and nobody is paying.
When unarmed black people are killed at nearly 5x the rate of unarmed white people, while still making up only 13% of the population, the problem is not that people aren’t calling officers “sir” and “ma’am” and kissing their feet when they are pulled over, but that even when a person of color is unarmed, they are armed, because blackness is treated as a weapon. Even when a person of color is legally armed and compliant, the illegitimate fear of a threat is enough for a person to have their life taken away from them while thousands of people try and justify it.
Black Lives Matter is accused of being violent, angry, and aggressive, and even if all of those things were true, so what if they are? Will asking politely and using please and thank you stop us from getting killed? Will skirting around white feelings, white guilt, and black self-hatred mean I won’t cringe every time a person of color is pulled over by law enforcement? Do we ask for our civil rights nicely? Will they be given to us if we do?
Why do people value the civility of the oppressed over their right to speak out against their oppressors? Why, in a conversation that should be centered on the government-sanctioned disposability of black lives, do people insist on centering themselves, their guilt, and their own ignorant notions about an experience they will never understand?
I’m tired of preaching about love and acceptance to a country that is so willing to elect a man who thinks my family’s faith compromises our morality or a woman who claims she will listen to the voices of the oppressed but has proven that she will speak over them and leave them in the dust if it doesn’t further her agenda. I’m tired of being told how I should speak to people who think the value of my life is conditional. I’m tired of being told I should love more, be angry less, and wait for everything to be okay. It will not.
Black people have bled for this country. The United States of America was built on their backs, and yet, here we are, a full 151 years after we’ve won our alleged freedom, and we’re still being treated as second-class citizens.
Here’s a radical notion: Black people don’t have to make you comfortable when we’re fighting for rights. We don’t have to smile and be patient when we explain to you why your ideas are racist. We don’t have to hold your hand through understanding why blue lives matter is a disrespectful derailment to the real issue, or why your statistics on “black-on-black” crime are so irrelevant it actually hurts. We don’t have to be nice, and you sure shouldn’t expect.