As a Black woman, I think often of safety. I think about the fear of walking alone at night. I think about rouge Uber drivers who violate women’s space and safety. I think about the men who don’t understand the word no — men who have somehow been conditioned to confuse harassment with conversation. I walk across my campus and I pinpoint streetlights, mothers with friendly faces and children, and nearby places of refuge. I reconsider the shoes that I am wearing, just in case I have to take off running. On some days, I look down at the phone in my hand and I contemplate all of its uses in the case of an emergency. Maybe I could use it to call my brothers to come and save me. Maybe I could use it as a weapon? I sometimes think long and hard on if I would use my phone to dial the three simple numbers, to call people who are supposed to aid in maintaining my safety. I have thought it over too many times to count. I am afraid of being mistaken as a prostitute , and taken to jail. I am afraid that a possible indiscretion or misunderstanding can have me laying in cold blood. All at the hands of people aimed to protect and serve.
I am tired. Just days after this country celebrated a holiday aimed at reminding marginalized people of their place and invisibility, I am reminded of why I choose not to celebrate “Independence Day”, as my brothers and sisters lives, and their freedom are being snatched without question or concern. On Tuesday, the country (more so Black America) began to mourn yet another Black death. Alton Sterling, a southern Black man was shot 5 times in a open parking lot by police officers. And even with the creation of a new hashtag, his story echoes that of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin and countless other people whose names we will never know. Though I want desperately to believe in justice, I know how this story will play out; as we have seen too many cops get away murder. In under six months, 114 Black men have been shot and killed by police. How do we explain this?
Simply, the melanin in my skin can be seen as an indictment of guilt and viewed as a sufficient reason to take my life. These words are brief, as I no longer have the energy or mental space to process the theft of Black lives in this country. I recognize that we are not safe and in the eyes of many, we are not worthy of protecting. With the death of Alton Sterling, I will continue to reevaluate my safety and limit my dealings with police officers.
As this story continues to unfold, let us protect our sanity and well being. There is nothing natural or normal about death, or seeing our people shot down in the street. It is ok to disengage from the think pieces. It is ok to not watch the video of a man, father, son, brother, husband dying at the hands of police officers. It is ok to sit in silence and grieve. Let us take time to send prayers and positive thoughts of love and strength to the Sterling family and all who have died at the hands of police officers.
Your Sista Friend,