I’ve been fairly fortunate in that for the majority of my life, I’ve never felt that my life is somehow threatened simply because I exist. In recent years, I’ve been the victim of gender based violence: sexual assault, sexual harassment, and most recently a death threat for being a woman daring to defend herself against unwanted and unsolicited attention from strangers. In some cases, these acts of violence against me as a woman have come from police officers.
I cannot speak to the Black experience in America. I’m not Black. I’ve never been gunned down for looking suspicious, I’ve never lost a sibling to unnecessary police force. That said, I do know the disgusting and awful feeling of walking past a cop and knowing that they would harm me before they would help me – in this case, because I am a woman.
While I may face harassment for being female on a daily basis, I still feel safe if a cop pulls me over – which happened just a few weeks ago. I got caught speeding and was let off with a stern talking to, probably because I’m a wide-eyed girl. The guy in front of me? He got a ticket. Probably because he’s not half as cute or female.
So, while my being female comes with some seriously unwanted attention and aggression, it simultaneously comes with “perks.” Free stuff because I’m a girl! No tickets because I’m a girl! Doors get opened because…girl!
This is not the case for Black people in the US. There aren’t perks to being stigmatized. Ever. There is no perk when your name is Jamal and you are a black man. You are an instant label: violent, cheater, wife beater, poor, baby-daddy, the-reason-we-can’t-buy-a-house-on-this-block.
What. The. Fuck.
When did we become a nation of people who blame people for getting shot while following police orders? When did we turn into a culture that assumes “he must have done something wrong” instead of letting the blame fall where it is deserved? Do we not care when a cop directly endangers the life of a child by opening fire into a closed space?
Have we ever cared? And by we, I’m talking to white people. Because it’s white people who brought black people to the US in the first place, and it’s white people who are the first to shout “all lives matter” while black boys are bleeding in their front yards. It’s white people to run to a guilty cop’s defense – the SAME white people who want a right to bear arms have nothing to say about the death of a black man upholding the same legal right. Where are is the NRA freaking out about shooting a man within his legal rights to carry? If he had been a white man…
Everyone knows all lives matter, but it’s white people who take it to that Animal Farm level of “we are all equal, but some of us are more equal than others.” Guess what? That’s bullshit.
Today I saw a video on Facebook of a friend in a car with his pregnant fiance. They were driving to lunch and the thought popped into my head and it occurred to me that this new family, or my own cousins, or my sister’s husband, or her future children – someday, they could be shot dead just for…being. But first, let me tell you about how my life matters so I can feel included in the conversation and maintain my pride in-tact.
I often wonder about my own future children. They will not have easily identifiable “white” names. They may not even have easily identifiable white features. While they will be latino and not black, I often still wonder…will I be bringing labeled babies into the world? When we walk down the street and I introduce my son, will you hear, “Meet my son, Rapist” or “This is my kid, Murderer?” Will you just see another drug runner? An “illegal immigrant?” A gangster?
Think about it. When you figure it out, get back to me.
Don’t to forget to check your privilege on the way out.