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  • Writer's pictureKaliya Johnson

All lives don’t matter until black lives matter

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

There is so much to say as I wrote this over and over again. From the angry me, from the sad me, and the hurt me. So here it is, you get the tired and fed up me.

I am hurt that I had to see another African American life taken unjustly.

I am sad for the family members of George who had to watch their loved one killed on video by a cop with a vengeance as he pleaded for his life.

I am disgusted that this isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that yet another black person is killed because of the racism that has been systematically built into this country

I am angry because it took riots for people to finally start listening and seeing us.

It should have never come to this, but it has.

“A riot is the language of the unheard”

How I feel is all over the place, but what I do know is that my feelings are valid. I don’t always do well expressing myself so I decided to write a letter.

Dear _____,

I am sick and tired of seeing black people being portrayed as “thugs” in the media or being killed because of the color of their skin. Because guess what, I am one of those “thugs”. I am a black woman living in a country that has set me up to fail.

I don’t get the luxury of walking into the store that sells expensive things without being looked at like “she doesn’t belong here, she must be lost”. Or just simply not being helped because I don’t “look” like I can afford anything in the store.

I don’t get put at the front of the restaurant if I decided that I didn’t feel like dressing up that night and opted for a more casual look of jeans and hoodie. I get put in the BACK.

I don’t get to feel relaxed when I get pulled over by a cop while they question me about my car and if it’s actually mine.

I don’t get to walk into a room and not be immediately judged by the color of my skin.

There is so much more..

Silence is complicit. Being complicit is deadly.

It shouldn’t take me writing this for my pain to be recognized. I’ve seen posts on social media saying I’m with you and I see you. But until something is done, and people are educated about the history of this country, then you will truly see me. Because trust me, that little history lesson you learned in school during Black History month doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.  

Until you realize the cold hard truth about your privilege you won’t feel my pain. Here are a few differences between white privilege and black reality.

When we are young and have “the talk” with our parents it’s not the same talk that white people have with their kids. At the age of 5 and 6 black children are no longer seen as handsome and cute but are suddenly seen as a threat. Black children, especially young black men, are told that when they are approached by an officer they are to put their hands up and announce who they are and that they are not a threat. And when we’re older and can drive, we are told to drive with our wallet in the cupholder and not in our purse or pocket because we dare not reach for that bag while a cop is present. Reaching for a bag can be seen as a threat, simply because you’re black. I’m fairly certain that my white friends haven’t had to think twice about reaching into a bag for their license when they get pulled over. That’s called privilege. Look it up.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I using my privilege for good or am I just going about my life?” Think about how you can make a change within yourself and those around you. If you don’t know how to do that, then let’s have a conversation. We all have biases, conscious and unconscious. It’s what we do and how we act on those biases that becomes the issue.

Myself, and so many others, are tired, so tired, of having our loved ones die because people aren’t willing to stand up and make a change. I’m tired of people posting online when a murder happens and then forgetting about the injustice until the next murder happens. Black people are not a social media campaign that you can just jump on for clout. We are human beings and we’re tired. We are begging for change in this country we call home. So when all the social media buzz dies who will be standing by me with the same energy, focus, and attention to this?

I could be next..

All lives don’t matter until black lives matter.

Ways to take action:

  1. Have conversations with your friends and family about privilege

  2. Call people out when you see someone being treated unfairly and unjustly

  3. Donate to social justice organizations who are supporting black communities

  4. Have honest conversations with your black friends about your privilege and how you can make changes

  5. Read books and educate yourself on the history of racism in America. Don’t only rely on your black friends to tell you about the racism they face

  6. Be kind to everyone you meet. If you find yourself judging someone, stop yourself and think about how your biases are adding to the problem

  7. Come November, vote. Vote for a leader and local leaders who will make changes for every American. All lives don’t matter until black lives matter

  8. Research and follow new social media pages @theconsciouskid @shiftingtheculture

  9. Follow hashtags to stay updated on continuing action #blacklivesmatter

  10. Continue to educate yourself

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