(A/N: This is a somewhat personal take on the BLM essay because, being a non-black person, personal context is necessary to make the essay more relatable to other non-blacks, hence highlighting the matter in a more sympathetic manner.)
I was eleven when I heard Tupac blaring through the radio. “Here on Earth, tell me what’s a black life worth / A bottle of juice is no excuse, the truth hurts”
And oh, did I scream along to it. It was powerful, but I had no idea about just how much substance it actually held. I was eleven and naive, unexposed to the horrors that dwelled in our world. When I thought of America, I thought of DisneyLand, fifty white stars against blue and a green George Washington. When I thought of America, I didn’t think of how the police killed more than a hundred unarmed black people in 2015, how in 2018 in New York, 88% of police stops involved Black people, how Black Americans and white Americans use drugs at a corresponding rate but Black Americans are six times more likely to be arrested for it, or how Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women, even in identical economic conditions. And lastly, when I listened to Tupac, I thought of a meaningless juice bottle, not as a metaphor for fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins, an African-American girl who was murdered by a store owner for putting a bottle of juice in her backpack. Yes, a bottle of juice is no excuse and the truth does hurt.
“Move counties get a lawyer you can shake the shit / Ask Rodney [King], LaTasha [Harlins], and many more / It’s been going on for years, there’s plenty more..” On my thirteenth birthday, I found out that exactly fourteen years and one day ago, Rodney King, an African-American man was savagely beaten up by 15 police officers in Los Angeles after a high-speed chase. We’ve watched Black people die for centuries. Emmit Till whistled at a woman, Eric Gardner broke up a fight, Philando Castile was driving home, Tamir Rice was playing in the park, Ezell Ford was walking in his neighbourhood, Walter Scott was going to an auto-parts store, Botham Jean was eating ice cream in his living room, Atatiana Jefferson was babysitting her nephew at home, Eric Reason was pulling into a parking spot at a local chicken and fish shop, Dominique Clayton and Breonna Taylor were asleep in their beds. And a week ago, George Floyd was at the grocery store, and he couldn’t breathe, officer, he couldn’t breathe.
Now, the horrors are not just limited to the eyes of the witnesses, they are videotaped on mobile phones to inspire reform. The fallen ones are brutally morphed into social media symbols, their last words survive as trending hashtags and their faces adorn our twitter feeds. But the trauma is diluted over time as the ritual of videotaping and over saturating the world with murders of African Americans continues.
It desensitizes us to the extent where cold blood murders are reduced to a few scanty hashtags, leaving the governments with more excuses to shrug the matter off, because the trends will be extinguished in a few days as the world hops onto another bandwagon. Let’s deliver the message of Black Lives Matter by action, let’s stop waiting for change, or hoping to inspire change, let’s bring it upon this land ourselves. “When they ask me, when will the violence cease? / When your troops stop shootin n****s down in the street…”