I am awake and I am afraid.
July 13th, 2013. It is my 21st birthday and we learn that Trayvon Martin will not see justice.
November 24th, 2014. Mike Brown will not see justice.
December 3, 2014, just a week later, Eric Garner will not see justice.
I am now 22, and these names don’t even begin to cover the list of Black people who have lost their lives due to police brutality and racial injustice—the list that will continue to grow.
I am awake and I am afraid to be Black in America.
I haven’t always been awake. My life had been 22 years of floating along and ignoring the issues while chaos surrounded me. In college, I was afraid to bring up the topic of race for fear of being shut out by “friends” and if I did it would cause discomfort—agitation.
“I don’t see race.” “I don’t really see it as an issue.” I’d crawl back into my shell, shaming myself for even murmuring the thought. I would not be understood and I was silly to think I could be.
Up until recently, I’d been ashamed of who I was. I was afraid to claim my identity and I was afraid to be visible. I’d felt I was a novelty to people in my life instead of human. I fear that this is still true.
I am awake and I am afraid to speak up.
Talking about racial injustice seemed to be more problematic, so I was quiet. I remained still, hoping to go unnoticed. Hoping it would pass and we’d move on to the next.
But I can no longer be silent. I will not.
I am awake and I am afraid because this “justice system” has shown and will continue to make it aware that the law does not protect Black people. Trayvon Martin was not protected. Mike Brown was not protected. Eric Garner was not protected. And soon, Tamir Rice and Aiyana Jonas will not be protected. These names are not even 1% of the list that did not begin with them and will not end with them.
I am awake and I am sad. It is the holiday season and the families of these lives do not get to celebrate with their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles. I am sad because it will happen again.
I am awake and I am angry because people will ignore. Because people try to silence us. Because people will try to tell me not to be angry. Because the blood of the innocent continues to be shed.
I am awake and I am afraid. Do not pity me, but rather think why. We live in a society that will protect animals before they protect Black people. We live in a society where black face is “just a joke!” rather than racism. We live in a society that claims I am being sensitive for wanting justice. We live in a society where I am not safe.
I am awake, but I can no longer be afraid of what you think of me. I cannot be afraid of the comments I’ll receive, or how I’ll be ignored for voicing what should have been said long ago. I cannot live a life hiding and hoping to go unnoticed. I cannot be afraid to be visible. I cannot post a Martin Luther King Jr. quote and think I’ve done my duty. I cannot ignore this.
I am awake, and there is a fire inside of me. I am awake, yet I feel hopeless. I am awake, and I feel sick.
I am awake and I am afraid.