“Not only are we going to stand up, we are going to right the wrongs of our people in this generation. Our generation has the memories of the unpunished murders of Schwainey, Goodley and of Medgar Evers. There are going to be no more unpunished murders! No more.” Stokeley Carmichael said this to a large group of people on a live television broadcast in 1967. 1967, that’s 49 years ago. The thing that sticks out most to me is that he mentions how his generation is plagued by the memories of unpunished murders. Three key words; generation, unpunished, and murders. Now, almost 50 years and 3 generations later, we’re still dealing with the same issue in this country. An issue of the current generation being plagued by unpunished murders. Notice how it’s murders, plural. Not just one assassination, but multiple people being killed at a rapid rate. And all these murders center on race and are repeatedly happening to the same race of people. And to top it all off, the killers are the same people who swore an oath to protect and serve these people. To keep us safe, yet right now, America feels unsafe more than it has ever been.
To protect and serve, that’s what you see across a police car everywhere you go in the United States. It’s the reassurance that they are here to keep you safe. So, in turn, when the average American sees the police, they feel safer, as they should. This is not the case for African-Americans in 2016 and it is definitely not the case for young African-American males, being one myself. When we, African-American males, see the police, we immediately think Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, all the way up to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I could fill this whole article with names, but that point has already been proven and if you are unaware of that point and/or don’t believe it to be true you’re either ignorant or in-denial. But, back to the point of the immediate thought of these victims that circulates in an African-American male’s mind as soon as they catch sight of the police. You have to understand, this immediate thought is not a vengeful one, but a defensive one. A defense mechanism if you will. A defense mechanism that has now been embedded into the minds of African-American males, especially younger ones. And this mechanism is not a violent one, that would cause someone to react in rage. It’s actually quite the opposite of that. We react in fear. We are scared of the police. If I’m walking down an unpopulated side of the street and two police officers are walking down the same side, I’ll probably cross to the other side, not in a theatrical way to make a scene, but politely, where they don’t even realize what happened. But in that scenario, what just happened was me crossing the street out of fear that an “incident” or a “mistake” might occur. Yet, these are the same people who are supposed to stop those “incidents” and “mistakes.” And I’m not saying all police officers are bad, but there have been so many of these “incidents” and “mistakes” taking place and then not being justly solved, it makes it hard to trust anyone in the uniform, hence, #BlackLivesMatter.
When I drive a car, I keep my wallet, which contains my license in the cup holder right next to the stick shift in plain sight. There’s no way you can miss my wallet whether you’re sitting inside or standing outside of my car. Maybe if you’re a small child in the backseat, it might get past you. I don’t do this because I have OCD. I do this, in the chance that I’m pulled over and have to show identification. I do this out of fear that if I don’t do this, there’s a chance I can die. I can guarantee that if you went out in any state in America, right now, you’ll find more than a handful of African-American males who do the same thing or something similar. To a Caucasian male, this probably sounds absurd, from keeping the wallet in plain sight to having the thought that a police officer will kill them for reaching for it, or kill them at all. Let’s touch on that fact really quick. Every morning I wake up, I think about the things I’m going to do that day, the clothes I’m going to wear, and how I’m going to avoid getting killed by a police officer. That’s a daily thought I have to have, because if I don’t, I’m not making a healthy decision. That’s why #BlackLivesMatter.
Then comes the question. Well, why do you think the police are going to stop you? What are you doing to make them want to stop you? What are you planning to do to make you suspicious? Trust me, if I or any other African-American male had the answer, we would study that thing and spread it like it was contagious. But one thing I cannot stop doing is being a Black man in America. Not just because I love who I am and I am proud of who I am, but because it’s physically impossible. And based on my experiences, a lot of the times I’ve been stopped, it’s because I’m Black. I’ve been stopped because I fit descriptions, I’ve been stopped to see if I would volunteer to be in a lineup because of my skin color, one time I was stopped in the day time, because the small light above my license plate was off and when the officer came to the window the very first words out of his mouth were, “Where’s the guns and the weed?” He asked that twice and then when he realized there were no illegal substances in the car, he said he stopped me because the light above my license plate was off. I’ve been the passenger in my college roommate’s car, who is White, on campus where he was stopped and the police officer came to my window, reached into the car, grabbed the door handle ordered me to hand over the drugs and when I told him there weren’t any drugs in the car, he pulled me out, handcuffed me and proceeded to search the car and got increasingly mad at me, the passenger, when he couldn’t find anything. And when he came up with nothing, he let us go. The craziest part of that story was my roommate was more upset than me and he didn’t hesitate or deny that incident happened because I was Black. Those are just some of the reasons why I think the police might stop me at any given moment. I know adult White people who have told me that they have never been stopped, period. Again, that’s why #BlackLivesMatter.
Throughout this article, I have been reiterating #BlackLivesMatter. In the previous paragraphs I was giving examples to why, but the thing that motivated me to write this article was not the why. The notion that made me feel it was necessary to write this article was #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter. At this point, if you are saying #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter, it’s slap in the face to African-Americans. It’s slap in the face to the victims and their families. It’s also saying that you don’t care. All these “incidents” involve unarmed and/or non-threatening African-American victims who were slain by police officers. It’s a very specific and recurring issue. So to peacefully protest against that issue, #BlackLivesMatter was created. It is a movement to speak out against these injustices, find justice for these issues in a peaceful manner, and prevent them from happening in the future in a peaceful manner. Saying #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter is like running through the Gay Pride parade in NYC screaming Heterosexual sex feels good too. It’s selfish. We have one peaceful movement against this countrywide issue and there’s groups of people who don’t want us to even have that, not to mention, we would be totally happy if we didn’t have to create the movement in the first place. African-Americans would love for Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and all the other victims from a list that can fill a three page article on it’s own to be able to enjoy their families rather than having to peacefully protest to the rest of the nation #BlackLivesMatter in the wake of their deaths. Saying #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter stagnates the entire movement. #AllLivesMatter is stating the obvious, of course life is better than death, just the same as you need oxygen to breathe. #BlackLivesMatter means African-American’s lives matter too and based on recurring current events, there are more than a few people who need to be reminded of that. So, #BlackLivesMatter, period. Protest peacefully. Use your voices, not violence. Use the ammunition of thoughts produced by the mind, not the ammunition produced by a handgun. Violence only begets more violence. Stay safe.