By Chris B. Bennett
For many, America is the land of opportunity. Immigrants come to our country looking for a better life, and kids across the country grow up dreaming of one day becoming famous. Yes, it is possible in this country to go from rags to riches. Yes, it is possible for a skinny Black kid from Hawaii to become president of the United States. However, the reality for most Black men in America is that they are more likely to become a household name by dying at the hands of the police than it is for them to attain their fame in any other way.
The truth of the matter is that Black mothers and Black fathers across this country live in a state of fear as it relates to what their young son(s) may encounter on a daily basis, and rightfully so. The fear that each day might be the last day that they might see their son alive. Fearful to the reality that every time their son leaves the house it provides an opportunity for someone to violate his civil rights. Fearful that their son might become a victim of an unruly crowd that suspects him of either doing something unlawful or that “he might be about to do something” unlawful and decide to wrongfully take the law into their own hands.
Very few people outside of African Americans in this country truly knows what it feels like to be grateful for an opportunity to see another day, especially when it comes to acts of violence that are outside of their control.
It’s one thing to die from personal negligence, thrill seeking or by intentionally putting yourself in harms way. But it is another thing to be fearful of your life, on a daily basis, for merely minding your own business, trying to avoid any type of confrontation, driving while Black, walking while Black, talking while Black, breathing while Black, or for just being Black in America. This is why far too many of our young African American males aren’t afraid to die, as they know tomorrow is not a given. They know that while today might be their lucky day, tomorrow there is a serious possibility that they may not be so lucky!
There are those who would like you to believe that when we talk about Black lives matters that it means we think Black lives are more important than the lives of others. You can commonly hear them yelling “All Lives Matter” when they hear protestors chanting “Black Lives Matter.” Unfortunately, what they fail to realize, either intentionally or unintentionally, is that we are indeed saying the same thing. The notion of Black lives matter means that Black lives are just as valuable as the lives of all other Americans. It means that we want the same level of respect afforded to us as other citizens when it comes to interactions/altercations with police. Too often these incidents involving African Americans escalate into situations that involve the deadly use of force that many observers feel was unjust and unnecessary at the time.
It’s a shame that we know the names of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and now George Floyd due to a system of oppression commonly referred to as “Just Us” because these types of incidents appear to only happen to just us, and leaves the mothers and fathers of Black males killed by police seeking justice from a system that has consistently disappointed us for years. Why is it that we know these names, but we don’t commonly know the names of first responders who heroically saved a significant number of lives during a tragedy? Why don’t we commonly know the names of Black teachers who miraculously improve the academic achievement of their students in consecutive years? Why don’t we commonly know the names of Black people who tirelessly work to make sure that people in our community are able to eat a meal more than one night per week, but we know the name of Amadou Diallo, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin.
Believe it or not, every day in America there is a young black man who leaves his house with hopes and aspirations of one day being famous. With a smile on his face, he leaves his house thinking about how great life will be when he becomes the next Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, or Barack Obama. Hopefully, we will get to a point in this country when such aspirations are more attainable than becoming part of a very long list of Black men who died during an incident that happens to just us, because that is not the type of fame that we want our young men to attain.
America must understand our frustration. We’re not upset based on a single incident, but rather we are upset about the collective number of incidents that have taken place over the years, and we’re tired of seeing the same ending time and time again.
No justice, no peace! It’s time for these crimes against humanity to cease!
Through the eyes of an ink barrel, may peace be unto you!
You can follow Chris B. Bennett on twitter at The_inkbarrel.