These last couple of weeks have been intense and laden with grief for me and many other black people across the globe. I am processing, talking to friends and making plans of how we might address, tackle and organise – and I know I’m not alone.
In the mean time, I want to tell you a story.
Especially those of you who wonder why we keep posting, keep hashtagging and keep grieving like it was our brother or sister that has been killed.
Especially those of you who wonder why we are ‘taking this all so personally’.
In the Summer of 2018, I went to visit my family in the US. The trip was full of wonder and joy for the most part – it was the first time I met my biological dad and many of my siblings.
(Read the full story HERE).
It should’ve been a trip about me and my family. Nothing else. But that’s not our reality. There’s always more.
Whilst in Tennessee, I stayed with my sister and her wife.
One night, more precisely just shortly after news hit about Botham Shem Jean being killed IN HIS OWN HOME by a white off duty police officer, I was sleeping on the sofa in the living room which is the room right by the apartment door.
At around 2am in the morning I woke up from someone knocking at the door. At first, I thought I was dreaming, but the knocking got louder and more persistent. Before I knew it there was another aggressive knock on the window…knock after knock after knock.
When I tell you that I was scared for my life I don’t mean that in the metaphorical way.
My whole body was reacting. I felt the trauma of every story heard, of generations oppressed, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling and all the other names and stories surging through my veins.
I found myself on the floor, crawling to my sisters room because I knew if whoever was on the other side of the door had a gun and started using it, I had a better chance of survival if I was as close to the ground as possible. We know these things.
I found myself praying that whoever was out there wasn’t white. As long as they weren’t white, we’d be okay we, could figure this out. But if they were white and we opened the door, our black bodies would put our lives in immediate danger. I kept seeing Botham shot in his kitchen…
We made it through that night and the details are another story for another day.
Why am I telling you this story you ask?
Well, this experience is what I am reminded of when I hear the story of #BreonnaTaylor – it could’ve been me.
These kinds of daily experiences are what every black and brown person is reminded of – consciously or subconsciously, when we hear and see these stories. It adds layer upon layer on the Collective Trauma in our communities.
It could’ve been my sister. It could’ve been one of our friends. It could’ve been my father, brother, uncle, son or daughter.
Shot to death by police officers who were looking for someone who was already in their custody. Shot 8 times.
We live with that stress, tension and worry, that collective trauma, every day.
(PS: Do not @ me with ‘but the full story…’ – I read the full story. I know the details. But let me ask you this: Would she be dead if the police had a warrant for a home with white residents? Or more so, if she was white and she was dead, would you be asking me if I knew the whole story? I think not…)
I have no tears left to cry. I am so angry and feel helpless.
For those of you thinking ‘well but you’re not in that kind of danger where you live, you live in the UK….’
You don’t know the half of what I have encountered and many of us encounter on a regular here. I could tell you stories…from being asked to get out of my car by a heavily armed police officer with my hands behind my back because me and my friend ‘fit the description’, to being called a monkey by a group of white men in central London, to all the things my black male friends experience even more frequently than me.
We might not be at risk of getting killed in the same way as our brothers and sisters in the US, but don’t be fooled, we are constantly being reminded of the fact that this system wasn’t built for us or with us in mind.
So no, we won’t stay silent. We will no longer stand by. We are going to rise up and we will bring change.
Enough is enough.
I will continue to educate myself (I may have just ordered so many books on amazon), will learn about ways of bringing social change, challenging the system and contributing to creating the Beloved Community I KNOW is possible.