Now, after reading that title, please don’t tell me there are no laws in the USA, federal, state or local that ban African-Americans from existing. I know that’s the case. I know Barack Obama is black, and I know he was elected president. But when one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime and police are routinely killing unarmed black men at the same rate they’re killing armed black men, I have to come to the conclusion that yes, it’s illegal to be black in this country; and it’s a crime often punishable by death.
Before he was murdered by law enforcement, (and left to rot in the August sun) Michael Brown surrendered to police. It is illegal to be black in the country.
The executions of Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Walter Scott and thousands of others (Over 100 in the first half of 2016 alone) make it clear that it is illegal to be black in this country.
And now we add Alton Sterling’s name to that list. Killed while being pinned to the ground by officers. It is illegal to be black in this country.
It goes without saying (I hope) that this situation is disgusting, deplorable, and needs to be remedied. But it hasn’t. After all those people and all that outrage it still hasn’t. It still keeps happening. We haven’t changed anything, we haven’t fixed anything.
I’m white, and I am cloaked by the warmth of my white privilege, of knowing well into adulthood that a cop is always your friend. But I have black friends. I don’t make this statement to give myself credence or validity, I say it because I am scared for them. I know they face a very different threat, a very different terror, than I do. I know there’s a chance I may wake up tomorrow to read their names on the news, to see their side by side photos (happy and smiling along side bloody and broken) splashed on the front page of the papers, to hear strangers chant their names at protests, to add them to a list of victims in what feels like an un-winable, neverending war.
They, like those before them, could be killed by the very people we’ve asked to protect us, by the very people who protect me, because I am not black. Because I somehow deserve this protection that they don’t have access to because of the color of my skin. Because it is illegal to be black in this country.