3/4ths of a Life Valued

Amijah Parker

In 2014, Eric Garner lost his life to a New York police officer’s choke hold after uttering “I can’t breathe” 11 times. The same year, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot 6 times. He was unarmed. Tamir Rice never realized his 18th birthday for playing with a toy gun. The officer who murdered him wasn’t fired until 3 years later, but only because he lied on his job application form. None of their killers were ever prosecuted.

The following year, Walter Scott earned five bullets in the back for a defective light on his car and was rushed away after a brief scuffle. The resulting protests chanted “No justice, no peace”, and eventually the officer was sentenced to 20 years. Alton Sterling is 6 feet under due to reports of a “disturbance outside a shop”. Philando Castile was killed while reaching for his license during a routine check. He had informed police he had a licensed weapon. None of the officers involved in both deaths served time. We got a year of rest before Stephon Clark in 2018. He was shot at least 7 times during a break-in investigation. The district attorney argued that the officers feared for their lives because they believed Mr. Clark was armed and therefore had not committed a crime. Only a mobile phone was found at the scene.

Two years later, the police switch sides. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was shot 8 times after officers raided her apartment. They failed to identify themselves, and when they broke in, Breonna’s boyfriend fired in self-defense under the pretense it was a burglary. One officer was charged, not with her death, but “wanton endangerment” for firing into a neighboring apartment. $12 million was given to her family, as if money could make up for the tears they will shed over her grave.

Later in 2020, history repeats itself and things finally come to a head. An officer put his knee on George Floyd’s neck, even after he repeatedly pleaded “I can’t breathe” and called out for his deceased mother. Protests broke out all over the U.S. and demonstrations were done in other parts of the world. Justice was served here, with the offending officer being charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and three others who threatened any bystanders attempting to help Floyd face charges of aiding and abetting murder.

Are you tired yet? Are you upset or uncomfortable? If you’re not, then you are a part of the problem.

We talk about the famous marching and protesting of the 1960s for equal rights, but the reality is we are still not equal. We are still fighting for our lives in 2020. These are precisely the cases that received media coverage. There are, without a doubt in my mind, plenty of other black mothers and fathers who bring flowers to their children, not for their birthdays or anniversaries, but to decorate their tombstones. There’s something inherently wrong with that picture.

Still, in denial? Let me put it into perspective for you. African Americans make up 13.4% of the population of the nation’s total, but a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019 found that black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police over the course of their lifetime than white men, while black women are about 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than white women. Moreover, according to a study done in 2016 by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, black victims of on-duty law enforcement lethal force are more likely to be unarmed than white victims.

Keep in mind, this genocide is over pigmentation in our skin that we can’t control.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement is our generation’s stand against the racial injustice that still resides and rules this country decades after Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and more rebelled to end it. While some may argue no single race should be focused on or that other races’ lives should demand the same attention, the purpose of the BLM Movement is to bring awareness to the fact that the statement “all living matter” cannot be true until black lives matter. I support other races, but there is no reason why me, a teenage girl, should be worried about whether I’ll live to see adulthood or meet the wrong end of a trigger-happy cop’s gun for one wrong move or poor decision.

Furthermore, I live by a set of unspoken rules and recommendations that are meant to help me survive. Some of these include but are not limited to: If you are pulled over, speak in short, clear and direct but not rude sentences.

Listen to their directions and announce anything you want to grab and slowly reach for it. Never challenge or resist arrest, even if you are innocent. Always submitting, being strong-willed is dangerous. Stay calm even if you are terrified and make sure people can always notice your hands. Straighten your hair, your natural hair is undesirable. Expect disappointment when it comes to anything like promotion, because if it is between you and anyone else who doesn’t look like you, even if you are more qualified it is more likely you will not be chosen. Don’t wear anything too provocative or revealing because you may be told you’re “fast”, “trying’ to be grown”, or “asking for it”. Don’t be too outgoing or curious because it may be misinterpreted as disruptiveness. Don’t shine too much if you want your peers to like you, they do not want to see you succeed more than them. Essentially, don’t be you and comply to live, even if it makes you unhappy.

To conclude, this country has never been on my side. As Jennifer Latham states in her book “Dreamland Burning,” black women have to work twice as long and five times as hard to succeed in this world. I will spend my entire life fighting for the tip of the iceberg because the odds will never be in my favor, and I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem the least bit reasonable to me. So, if you want to be a part of the solution and the revolution towards fairness, join me in the struggle to secure all lives, truly matter. I want to wake up in a world where I know I’m truly free, equal, and safe, and smile in knowing that I won’t turn on the news and notice another senseless killing because everyone who looks like me will wake up in that world too.