Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
I am so many things to so many people, but the one thing I am and will always be is a Black Man in America. I am an African American. This is something I have been my whole life, before my first job, before music, radio, before teaching, before I became known as BlackLiq, before everything.
This is how I will die. I am “Black.” It's almost painful to write that out, because I know, to so many, being black is seen and sounds like a limit, a handicap or excuse. For me, it is nothing less than empowering. For me, it is power. It is an opportunity. And from that power and opportunity comes the ability to be an individual, which to me is liberation.
I am fortunate as the child of a mixed couple to have been raised to see freedom as a state of mind first, a reality last. I am fortunate that because I am black, you think you know me.
My father, who is serving life in prison for a murder he has maintained his innocence of, is surrounded by forgotten black men he describes as simply “lost.” Recently I found out that he has been denied parole for the umpteenth time.
At the same time, sandwiched between stories of how hard it is to convict cops, I saw one of the officers in Minneapolis just made bail. All I could ask myself is the same question I and so many others have asked ourselves too many times, "Is justice really even attainable through our system or just something we're supposed to seek instead of revenge?"
What does it mean when justification looks and feels exactly the same as provocation?
It seems that America is just now figuring out what it means to be American to so many people, and at such a high cost. By now George Floyd isn't even the most recent black man to die in this country at the hands of the system, and sadly I doubt he will be the last. For me, the only difference regarding his death in the world's eyes was the ruthlessly visible way in which he was killed.
Death is death, murder is murder, no life is worth more or less than another until one decides to judge others without willing to be judged themselves. I have never lived by people's opinions. I live by my values, I build by my standards and I seek to be understood just as much as I seek to understand. I work to inspire and empower the people around me and in my orbit and community. If you know me, you know this. I don't believe in the system; I believe in people.
So what do we do? After all, the system is run by people. How do we trust "them" when they have failed "us"? How do they earn our trust? How many people whom I love will call me as a white person checking up on their black friend instead of just as a person I love?
How many miles will I see people march with their cardboard signs, as I wonder if their will to fight for equality is just as paper-thin as the signs they are holding? What is equality? Can you really define it and live with it if it means you have less or that I have more? Is that then "fair"?
About a week ago I was walking late at night near Monroe Park in Richmond and saw two girls, one white and the other not black but a mix of something beautiful, walking on the same side of the street as me. They had Black Lives Matter signs and as soon as they saw me, they went all the way to the other side of the street.
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When we both had light on us I said, "Hello," and all they did was clam up and grip each other's hands tighter. I felt sorry for them because like so many others who have "joined the fight" they have just begun to hurt. They have yet to see how long and hard it will be to heal, and they are still fighting with themselves.
As for me, this changes nothing. What you may be feeling for the first time isn't new. For me and my family and friends, not just my race, this is how it has always been. We've been fighting.
We've been working while They've pretended to not be watching and waiting for a chance to capitalize on our arts, on our culture, on our endurance, on our intelligence, on our beauty. We used to joke and say, "It's called race because someone will always be in last place." So the question isn't just what do we do? Or how much do we give? Or how can I help? The question is: How much are you willing to lose?
They've taken our lives, They’ve taken our freedom, They’ve taken our history, our past, our present, our future, They've taken everything … but They can't take our love because that is ours. It belongs to us, we just share it with you. And for that we aren't just willing to die, we are willing to live. We are willing to be the change that we want to see. And if you're wondering who "They" is, let me do you one last favor and clear that up.
"They" aren't just white people and privilege. "They" aren't just cops. "They" aren't just presidents and politicians. They are a system of beliefs, of deceptions, of laws, of justifications and of greed. And by themselves:
"They" are weak.
And so I'll say it once again for all my brothers and sisters of every color and of every positive creed:
Power to the People!
Contact contributor Black Liquid at email@example.com.
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