Dear Diary: I Am Afraid, But I Will Not be Broken.

WORDS BY CHRISTEL LANGUE / @CHRISTELMICHELLE
PAINT-VISUALS BY ZAHRA EL-KHAZRAGI / @ZAHRAELKHAZRAGI


Dear Diary,

Early this year, I remember our Founding Editor-in-Chief, Zoe Gilligan, asking me if I would write a Dear Diary piece. One with the intention of addressing the Black Lives Matter movement in conjunction with the growing epidemic of police brutality within our country (the United States). At first, I said yes, and then I decided to hold off. I chose to wait because I believed that writing an op-ed in the first week of January about a widespread outbreak of injustice felt too premature. There would be plenty more instances of the same injustice taking place throughout the year. Why not wait to cover them all, or as many as I could? That statement within itself shows the need for a call to action. The hindrance of an essay whose purpose is to comment on the growing political unrest in our society should not be due to the fact that matters are getting worse. No, it should be due to the fact that this is old news because things are getting better. However, the reality of the situation is that things have not gotten better. People are being killed, brothers and sisters are facing systematic oppression, mothers and fathers are dealing with continued persecution, our world is crumbling. I am tired of waiting. I have grown to hate watching the news. I have searched endlessly for answers hoping this will all soon come to an end. Most importantly, I am afraid.


Image found here
  I am afraid that my seventeen year-old brother's life will abruptly and unfairly end one unfortunate afternoon if he decides to talk back to an officer. I am afraid that my sister, with her sharp tongue and often disrespectful manner, will get beaten on a subway platform by a gang of cops looking to teach a young girl a lesson. I am afraid that the stories I hear everyday via social media, word of mouth, and the local news, will stop being just stories to me; that I will soon have to lay to rest a friend or family member whose final moments were captured in agony and ultimately broadcast for the world to see. I am afraid that I am next.
  I grew up as a first-generation American, whose father hails from the Central African Republic and mother from France. Because of my roots, my family could not entirely identify with the centuries old enslavement and misconduct toward black people in America. At least, not in the same way that my peers could. My ancestors were not enslaved plantation-workers living in the depths of Georgia. My grandparents did not have to drink from separate water fountains or sit in the backseats of buses. My mother and father did not have to march in order to have the same education as their white counterparts. My childhood was not one filled with stories of civil rights battles in which my parents took part in order to give me the life that I have now. Instead, I grew up hearing tales of a different kind of sacrifice, that being my parents' immigration to the United States and starting their life from scratch. Yet the problems being faced today affect me and my family all the same. It is 2016 and the color of our skin still seems to do a lot of the talking for us, when it comes to police-community relations. There needs to be a change.
  This is the Land of the Free, and don't you forget it. Slavery is over. The Civil Rights Movement has seemingly done its job. We are now all equal. Lately though, I look at my mother and father's faces, and what I see is confusion; anger, even. This is not what they had planned. Every chance encounter we have with police is not filled with comfort, but instead panic. Our grand land is no longer one of unity, nor is it one in which to hold pride. We are divided. Everywhere you turn, people are claiming turf and declaring war against each other or against police who are supposed to be here to protect us. What are we to do?
   It is now that we are all beginning to see that there is so much work left to be done. In order for all lives to matter, Black Lives must Matter. Brown Lives must Matter. Victims must stop taking the blame and this culture of silence needs to be put to rest.
   My allegiance with the Black Lives Matter movement is simple. First and foremost, to address the over-shared comments regarding black-on-black crime, I truly believe that particular issue is separate from the movement. There is crime within every community among its members. That seems like a scapegoat to me. White people rob each other. White people kill each other. Is it right? Absolutely not. Does it happen? Yes. I am sorry that the people that so many of you who oppose BLM have encountered (the ones who claim to represent the movement itself), are spreading the wrong message and adding to the country's growing racial divide. Yes, black people are not the only race being targeted by police officers, but we are fighting for so much more than justice for crimes of police brutality. Black and brown people have always been regarded as second class citizens in this country. A lot of that has been instilled in us because of the United States' history and our role in it. Now we are fighting to break that mold. Though, all lives matter, some seem to matter a little bit less. We are fighting first and foremost for ourselves and so the word 'Black' in the hashtag is one-hundred-percent necessary. Nobody was shouting 'all lives matter!' until we spoke up and said that our lives mattered. 
   To the people who shout All Lives Matter in efforts to silence my voice when I cry that my life matters too, by saying my life matters, I am not in anyway taking away from the fact that other lives matter as well. I am saying that at the end of the day, my little brother can't walk with his hood on at night in our neighborhood. Even though he is in the same tax bracket as many of our white neighbors, he may scare them and end up having to fight for his life like Trayvon did. God forbid he loses the battle. I am saying that my life matters in addition to yours and some people need to be reminded that while you can walk in a store with your hands in your pockets, I cannot. Your problems exist, yes. But so do mine. And now I am fighting for my problems and speaking up for myself with this hashtag. No more umbrella statements. Let's get specific.



  All the same, this battle does not stop with Black lives. The amount of people who have become casualties in our fight is innumerable. To the families of our law enforcement, nobody deserves to die at the hands of a perpetrator who claims to be part of a progressive movement, that conversely should work hand in hand with our officers. Just like nobody should die at the hands of an officer who decided to take on the roles of judge, jury, and executioner in a heartbeat. These radicals do not represent us and should not represent our fight. All the same, trigger happy maniacs in law enforcement uniforms do not represent all of you. To the people from various races who continuously show support and speak up for the oppressed, for minorities of all kinds, for me, my siblings, and our future generations, I say thank you. This is the America my parents imagined. This is the dream they shared and the one they have passed down to me. A dream of unity, of brotherhood, of opportunity, of equality. We are not there yet, and though the road remains cluttered with hazardous material, I must admit it is easier to whether the storm when you are not walking through it alone. 

I am afraid, but I will not be broken. 
I am angry, but I will no longer be dismissed. 
I am sad, but I will rise. 
My voice is one worth listening to. 
My body is not ripe for destruction. 
I am black, and my life matters.

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