Please find a disclaimer at the bottom *
I run away, I’m always on the run. I grew up knowing only a couple of things: sirens mean trouble, not help, I have to fight harder than my neighbours to achieve the same things, I always have to prove myself. It’s exhausting to have to constantly justify your existence on this planet. It’s like being born as a rat and applying to become human. No matter what I do, they won’t accept me in their club. They might pretend but they never really see me as one of them. I hustle every day, I work two jobs and barely make ends meet. What’s holding you back they say? What’s holding me back is the poor education they provided in my neighborhood, the lack of role models, the lack of possibilities. We had Martin Luther King Jr, we had Rosa Parks, we have Barack Obama, heck Larry Wilmore got an entire show to shine spotlight on our issues. We’re from the Bronx, from Harlem, from Compton, from St. Louis, from Chicago and let me tell you: No, the problems are not resolved. I have to fight for survival every day. You know: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. That’s how America feels, TODAY! And I am not one of the fat pigs. And I’m not saying I want the bacon, I’m saying I want to eat from the same troth.
When blame needs to be put on someone, when you need a suspect, well my skin color does the job. Did I do anything but stroll down the street, minding my own business? But that’s not how it works in this country, in this world. People like me are generally suspicious, it doesn’t matter what job I have, who my friends are, what I do with my life. All that matters is the color of my skin. When building a better nation, a better world, isn’t there too much skin in the game to focus on the skin of people rather than their ideas and dedication? Fuck, what am I even saying? I guess one can always dream. We once were slaves, now we are free. But is merely being tolerated the same thing as being free? And I don’t mean to make the same mistake the people I am accusing are making: I am not dividing America into blacks, whites, Asians or Latinos. I am only dividing America into two categories: the people who want to live in cooperation with each other and the people who want to segregate us. The problem is a systematic one. Underlying advertisements, popular phrases, stereotypes in character portrayal in literature and film, there’s the notion that one should always be weary of people who belong to another race, missing the point that we all belong to the human race.
I stroll through my city, on the way to see my grandmother, who lives in an apartment that is completely inadequate considering her condition. I stop at the corner shop and pick up some flowers for her. I am about to tell her about my job. I finally got out of delivering packages and I got a better paid office job, a job that you usually would only get with college education, but I made a good impression and I was lucky to have an interviewer who understood that my lack of education was not the expression of inferior intellect but rather of an inferior school system in my neighborhood.
I walk around the corner and I see a struggle. An asian couple is fighting, he takes out a knife and rams it into her left side. She screams. I run towards her, dropping my flowers. The guy runs off into the other direction. I kneel next to the girl, she can’t be older than 23. I press my hand into her wound, trying to stop the bleeding. Blood is running everywhere, she is starting to become very pale, her eyes are losing their light. I tell her: “I’m not going to leave you. I’m not going to leave you. It will all be okay. Somebody will be here soon. Help will be here soon.” “Help!”, I scream, then tend to the girl again. I see a police car come around the corner. I wave my hand at them. They see the blood. A smile comes to my lips as I turn to the girl and tell her: “It’s okay, help is coming now. Just stay with me.” Then, suddenly, inaudible screams are directed at me. I don’t understand what’s going on. I have to take my hand out of her wound to put my hands behind my head. I see the blood gushing out of her wound again. I try to explain this to the officer. He kicks me in my stomach. I have to puke. Yelling. The girl becomes paler. I try to direct the attention towards her, but I feel cold steel in my face. My own blood is now mixing with the girl’s, like two rivers merging into one. “Help her!”, I try to say through burst lips. I am smacked down, I fall onto my face, I see the light leave the girl’s eyes.
America, the beautiful.
*I realize that I am neither black nor a citizen of this country that I love and cherish and that the world owes so much to, despite its shortcomings, which are all due to human nature. It is, however, also human nature to adapt, to evolve and to ask oneself questions about one’s behavior. I believe that empathy, whatever the result of the current debate on its merits may be, is a driving force in change because all too often people care only about what impacts them directly. I would argue that people being treated differently, being held back, having worse chances to make a good life for themselves, because of something they had no influence on, impacts all of us, because it leads us to reflect on who we are as a people that we would just accept this status quo of inequality of chances without looking for its roots and causes and trying to mend the broken thought process that leads to discrimination. So, please try to imagine a life different from your own, a life without the privileges you have enjoyed, privileges you might until now not have even realized were privileges. Normalcy can mean very different things to different people. We need to heal the racial divide, we need to focus on what we have in common, rather than what sets us apart. Here’s a list of things that set us apart: a pigment. Here’s a list of things that we have in common: literally everything else that has something to do with being human.
I believe in humanity and in the principles the United States of America were founded upon too much to give up or keep quiet. This country and this world can do better and therefore will do better. Yes, a lot of other things matter too, but please note that when I say “Black Lives Matter”, there is no usage of the word “only” in that statement. Saying Black Lives Matter at this point in time is simply putting the focus on one particular issue that matters and that has been treated like a stepchild for way too long (and yes, we should also treat stepchildren better, their lives matter too, but that is not the issue at hand right now). This movement has no aspiration for exclusion, it is rather a movement of inclusion. This society should become one where people live together instead of merely living next to each other, sometimes even in neatly segregated neighborhoods so as to keep contact at a minimum for reasons that escape me. The problem also does not lie with the police as such. Yes, blue lives matter. But again: that is not the issue at hand. This is a systematic failure of our society. A lack of training in conflict resolution and unwarranted prejudices make for unfortunate events that each one of us can help prevent, no matter what our position.
No one is born with an innate desire to treat people differently based on the skin of their color. That behavior is learned. What can be learned can also be unlearned. Let’s do just that. All I ask of you is to reflect on your own behavior, on your responses to race and to question the origin of these thoughts and responses and ask yourself whether they have any basis in rational thought. If not, throw them out.
None of what I just said is new. Many people have said the same things and they have been doing so for a long time now. The problem remains unresolved however, so more people need to speak up. Keeping quiet is not an option. Action doesn’t always require complicated legislation in which you feel you have no say anyway. Change is not a task of messianic proportions. It can be broken down to each one of us and small adjustments we make to the way we think of and treat other people. It’s simple. I have faith in all of us that we can take this little step to make this a better country and a better world.