Demonstrators stand in front of law enforcement who hold a perimeter in downtown Washington, D.C., in June 2020 following the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Every time a Black person is murdered, I am keenly aware that it could have been me, my son or any of my family members.
On Aug. 30, 2019, Elijah Jovan McClain’s life was cut short at the young age of 23 after an encounter with the Aurora Police Department in Colorado. The Aurora Police stopped him after an Aurora citizen reported him for looking “sketchy” because he was wearing a ski mask. Here we are in September 2021, and the three officers involved along with two paramedics have been indicted for the murder of Elijah. It took two years.
As I always say, this is step one. It takes Black people so long to obtain even an ounce of justice. We have to fight to ensure that the deaths of our loved ones goes viral just to get police departments to do what they took an oath to do for all citizens, to “serve and protect.”
It seems the so-called blue line stops just short of considering Black people as humans and that the “All Lives Matter” chant just cannot reach our Black, Ingenious and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. As a Black woman who experiences some form of racism or micro-aggression every day of her life, I am sure I speak for all when I say, “WE ARE TIRED.” I would have never thought that we would be still fighting for equality 12 generations after slavery.
Racism has never gone away. It just keeps evolving. Not only that, the blatant racism shown to us is getting bolder and stronger by the day. It is so prevalent that we have coined terms for people who are a “Karen,” or “Kevin” to describe individuals who flaunt their white privilege. We use these names jokingly, but we must keep in mind that these Karens and Kevins could get Black people killed.
The most disturbing thing about this is, they absolutely know it.
So what now? We have a new president who seemingly used the Black vote and is now failing on a promise made to the Black community. Black people are still waiting on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to be secured. We saw how quickly the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was passed — and while it is an important act and is needed for our Asian-American and Pacific Islander brothers and sisters — our families are still being brutalized and murdered, and we still must fight to be seen, fight to be heard and fight for justice.
We need a system in place that will truly support the communities that these officers are supposed to serve. We know we need more mental health care workers than police officers. And we need people in office who will realize that the vast group of people who have been deemed minorities and have been consistently oppressed by the systems in place are actually the majority and that we deserve equality.
Black communities do not need another street named Black Lives Matter. We do not need cops to dance with our children or play basketball with them. We do not need officers to take a knee. What we need is for cops to stop killing us.
I weep each time I read Elijah’s last words recorded on the body cam.
“I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people, I don’t judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful, and I love you. Try to forgive me. I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt! You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work. Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly.”
My heart aches at the thought of Elijah lying there while the life was snuffed out of him. It leaves within me a deep sadness that I cannot shake. I ask each and every one of you reading this: When will we be able to breathe? When will we be able to live? When will we get the opportunity to be humans?
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