I woke up this morning to another name trending as a hashtag. Déjà vu. I don't have to put a specific name behind a hashtag to make this article relevant because, frankly, by the time you read this, there will probably be another.
These last few years have been difficult for me. I have struggled with my emotions while watching the #BlackLivesMatter movement rise; I have wrestled with my feelings while hearing of a new death every month. I struggle when I see three shootings in three days. The emotion I tend to feel seems a little irrational but it is very powerful: fear.
It seems irrational because of who I am. I am a first-generation college student; I am an honor-roll student who is attending a great school on a full academic scholarship. I have a great family that cares for me and supports me, and I have a close-knit group of friends. I have years of work experience though I am only 19 years old. I am a law-abiding citizen. I am someone with a lot of potential and with a lot of opportunities.
I am a black male. And I am afraid.
I am afraid that there are people in the world who don't care about my character, my accomplishments nor my potential. I am afraid that there are people who judge me because of how I look and I am afraid that there are people who want to hurt me merely for the color of my skin. I am afraid of any police encounter because I am afraid of that moment, that small fraction of time, where someone's prejudice could end my life. I am afraid that I or someone I know will be the next hashtag.
I am afraid of what the media would say about me if I were the next hashtag. Would they throw dirt on my character? Would they call me a thug? Would they justify my death? Would there be rallies and riots for me? Would my family be OK? My girlfriend? My friends?
Why is it fair that I have to consider these things? I have a huge heart and love so many people, many of whom don't look or think like I do. I am an African-American, but I am an American. Shouldn't I feel safe? Shouldn't I feel peace?
Instead, I feel like deleting this article because I am afraid this will offend people. But what have I written that is offensive?
Don't tell me there is not a problem in the United States when I have to think about these things day-to-day. Don't tell me there is not a problem when people pick and choose whether to pray for Philando Castile's family or the cops in Dallas' families when they all deserve our condolences. Don't tell me saying "black lives matter" is a racist statement. Don't tell me seeking justice and peace is in some way insinuating black people want special rights. Don't counter with #AllLivesMatter because if you truly believed that, you would realize the two concepts aren't at odds with one another. Don't criticize the martyrs of the movement-- they didn't choose to die. Don't tell me to not be afraid of police encounters. Don't tell me I should defend the good cops when they refuse to condemn the bad ones.
Don't call me a racist because I wrote this article. Don't call me dumb for feeling scared in a time like this. I feel I have only written truths: my life matters, there is a problem and I am afraid.
I woke up this morning and saw the news and felt so anxious that I just had to write this down-- that's how I cope. I sometimes wonder how others like me cope? Those that feel they shouldn't be a threat to anyone but still have to worry that that wouldn't matter--is it wrong for them to feel afraid too? Is it unjustified to feel pain? Is it wrong for them to be angry?
I don't have a clever way to end this article. I offer no solutions in this article because, honestly, I have none. The problem is too large and complex for there to be a simple solution. The situations are too unreal for me to make sense of them.
This article won't shift someone's opinion. This article won't make those that overlook the problems accept them. This article won't ease the emotions of those that feel oppressed. This article probably means nothing.
However, I have no doubt in my mind that I do.