It seems as though I’m back at the keyboard too soon. It seems as though history can repeat itself within the course of a few weeks.
Speaking of history, it’s time for a lesson.
I’m told to “trust the system.” Apparently, it’s supposed to stand for truth, justice and the American way (or some crap like that). My own friends claim that, despite its flaws and slipups, the system is meant to ensure “equality” and “fairness” (or some crap like that).
Turn back the clock…
Twenty years ago. A man named Rodney King has been beaten nearly to death by men who are meant to be “keepers of the peace.” His assailants are not charged. The streets around our own campus burn.
Turn back the clock…
Fifty years ago. The country looks on as peaceful black protesters have fire hoses turned on them and dogs set upon them. Batons rain down, churches are bombed, little girls are killed. This is the plight of Birmingham. The greatest and most peaceful of all protesters has a dream, and he’s killed for it –– all of this as a result of the system.
Turn back the clock. The Little Rock Nine are spat upon.
Turn back the clock. Black men hang from trees amid burning crosses.
Turn back the clock. Black lives are worth exactly three-fifths of white lives.
Turn back the clock. Black women are raped and bred to watch their daughters suffer the same.
Turn back the clock. America the beautiful is built on the backs of slaves.
From where should I draw my trust? What point in the history of these United States can anyone claim, “Back then, the system was trustworthy.”
Eric Garner was my father. He was my brother. He was my son and my cousin and my husband –– simply because he looked like me. Now he’s in his grave with no justice to honor his memory.
In the wake of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, I have been divided from my peers. When racial tensions rise, suddenly I am black to them. They say I shouldn’t be so sensitive, that my people should stop acting like animals when the whole history of America is one great violent beast. They say these incidents have nothing to do with race. They say this nation has moved beyond its racism and prejudice and hatred –– and that I should too.
They say, like blind men, that I should trust the system.
To which I reply: “I can’t breathe.”
Freshman, film and television production