I started to watch the footage and when I saw his hands shaking I stopped. I couldn’t finish watching. I already knew the outcome. Alton Sterling is dead. Another black man has been murdered at the hands of white cops. Before you tell me how hard cops have it, I’m married to someone who was a police officer for thirteen years. I get it. I don’t care that Sterling may or may not have a criminal past that involved impregnating a fourteen year old, sixteen years ago when he was twenty (in this context). I’m a rape survivor. Please don’t pull the statutory rape card with me. I don’t really care that he was selling CD’s or what the homeless man said on the phone when he dialed 911. He’s dead. A wife lost her husband. Children lost a father, and still there are people making excuses. THIS is why Black Lives Matter.
Have you ever watched a montage of flashbacks in a soap opera? After I closed the video, flashes of conversations came flooding to me. Two of the kindest most intelligent people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working are black. We once had a conversation about how they had been taught to speak to police officers: “Keep your head down and just keep saying yes, Sir.” It didn’t matter the circumstances. I told them I’ve asked for a badge number and they both laughed, animatedly shaking their heads ‘no’ while telling me that would never happen in their world. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. How could such good people be potentially robbed of justice because of the color of their skin? THIS is why Black Lives Matter.
I was getting my nails done in Atlanta. The aesthetician told me about her childhood. She didn’t realize she was black until she was a child and moved to Georgia. A boy affixed a hanging toy monkey from her desk and implied that’s what should be done to people like her. The teacher didn’t bat an eye. She asked me, as a white skinned woman to speak out. I don’t know if my speech is loud enough or even if the words I type and speak are the right ones, but I know THIS is why Black Lives Matter.
In case you all haven’t noticed, I’m just about the whitest Hispanic you’ve ever seen. The nickname leche didn’t come from nowhere. This alabaster skin gets me a lot of privilege. People talk to me about the craziest shit because they don’t realize I’m not “white white”. I walk into high-end stores, fine dining establishments or just about anywhere and I’m greeted with smiles and welcomes. I don’t get the side eye. No one follows me around. White privilege at its finest. It’s with me all of the time. THIS is why Black Lives Matter.
I hear some of you shouting, “ALL LIVES MATTER.” To you I say, no I SHOUT back: WAKE UP! Seriously. Just stop. Look. I’m a three-time cancer survivor. I attend cancer awareness events. I speak on the topic. On those days the focus is on cancer. I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for research and other important programs to improve the lives of cancer patients. Cancer, cancer, cancer. Does that mean AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes and Alzheimer’s don’t matter? No. It just means in those moments we focus on cancer because it has directly affected our lives. It has robbed us of people we love. It has disfigured some of us. It has scarred some of us. It has threatened our well-being and livelihood. And it has changed us forever. Does that mean because you’ve never had cancer you can’t support the cause? Sure doesn’t. THIS is why Black Lives Matter.
We live in a nation still so segregated that while visiting another area of the country a child recently asked me, “Why are there so many black people here?” I was at a loss and it took me a few days to revisit the question. When I finally offered a butchered, ineloquent reply I explained, “There are certain areas of the country where black people are not widely accepted. I cannot speak for them, but perhaps they feel more accepted there. Do you understand?” I received a confused look and a head tilt. A child should not be so alarmed by the number of black people doing nothing more than walking on a public sidewalk it raises such a question. THIS is why Black Lives Matter.
We are regressing and so many-too many- of us don’t even see it. Or perhaps we won’t admit it. And until we do, men and women will continue to be profiled, continue to be discriminated against; continue to die. For.the.color.of.their.skin. And if you refuse to see it, because I know you can see it, let me be clear: THIS is why Black Lives Matter. You don’t have to be color blind. Just don’t be blind.