Last year I wrote a post On Loving a Young Black Woman In This World.
Y’all, it’s a year later and I could not be more proud of my now 17-year-old niece and her #BlackGirlMagic. She started college this year through a program that allows qualifying high schoolers to start college in their Junior or Senior year. On top of that, she’s accelerated her high school course program to graduate early.
Did I mention she did all this while working two jobs last year?
Yeah, she’s bada**.
She just started a new babysitting gig. It’s only a couple of times a month which is great because she obviously has a lot of school work to focus on at the moment. She’s got a key to their front door but it sticks a lot. She was chatting with me the other day and told me that two days this week it’s taken her almost 15 minutes to get the door open.
I felt ice run through my veins. In a world where Henry Louis Gates Jr. can be arrested because his own neighbors think he might be a thief, in a world where a cop receives no punishment for this heinous act, and in a world where black girls can’t even go to a pool party safely; I am terrified that someone will call the cops when my niece is trying to get to her job. This is an incomplete list of things black people have been shot for and this is a complete list of things a black person can do to avoid being shot.
What if someone sees her but doesn’t really see her? What if all they see is what they think of blackness–delinquent, thug, robber–and call the cops while she’s trying to get to her job where she takes care of someone’s children?
Here’s the thing: I know my worry is not unique or special. There are millions of families in the U.S. that have dealt with this type of fear for far longer than I have. Because of my whiteness I get a break from it when I want–I can disengage for a little while and give myself time to heal which is not an option available to people of color in this country.
I’m writing and sharing this today to reach out to friends who still don’t understand why we say #BlackLivesMatter. It’s because no one, not a single person, should have to worry that their loved one will be harassed, abused, or killed by police. I shouldn’t have to worry about my niece going to work in a house with a sticky door. No parent, cousin, sibling, aunt, uncle, friend, or other loved one should have to worry that in the interest of serving and protecting a select (white, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-gender, heterosexed) few others will be routinely gunned down.
That is not safety. That is not service. That is not freedom,