By India Taina
I wish I could say this is my first time being so afflicted. That this was my first time feeling like my brother had been shot. That a part of myself, not entirely myself, but a part that I loved, a part that mattered to me, had been murdered. But it isn’t. Trayvon was my first introduction. I didn’t understand anything about movements or underlying systemic racism at the time, but I realized something was wrong, something about me had shifted. Then there was Kalief. He was my first heartbreak, my first devastation. Jailed at 16 with no trial, for 3 years, 2 of which he spent in isolation. He never committed a crime. He died as a direct result of those years in isolation. Then I read about Lakeith. Lakeith had his life stolen from him when he was handed a 65 year sentence, at 18 years old, for the murder of his best friend, who had been shot by an officer. And then there was Antwon. Antwon Rose. The first time I sobbed was for him. He was shot in his back, 3 times, after he ran from an officer. He just ran. He was not armed, not dangerous. How could he have been? He ran away from the officer, not towards him. But he was shot, to his death, at 17. In 2016, he wrote a poem entitled “I am not what you think!” where he states
“I am confused and afraid
I wonder what path I will take
I hear that there’s only two ways out
I see mothers bury their sons
I want my mom to never feel that pain
I am confused and afraid
I pretend all is fine
I feel like I’m suffocating
I touch nothing so I believe all is fine
I worry that it isn’t though
I cry no more
I am confused and afraid….”
Antwon Rose 5/16/2016.
Antwon Rose July 12, 2000 – June 19th, 2018.
We do not inhabit the same America. There is no equal.
How is it that if we are equal, only those of us who fit a certain shade and mark certain boxes are the ones who day in and day out have to carry the weight of America’s sins, while the other half uses that weight as foundation for their success? How can we, as a nation, claim to be equal; when our houses are not built equally, our schools are not funded equally, our job opportunities and resources are not equal? Where oh where in this goddamn nation did someone look and say “Yes, this is equal.”
And how could we be equal if we weren’t allowed to determine so by ourselves? We were simply told “this is equal”, and we took it. We forgot to have a say in it. We allowed those in power to design our equality, when they were the very ones who constructed the inequalities. The last time we inflicted any real change worth noting was in the 60’s. Since then we have gotten comfortable with hashtags and petitions taking the work out for us, this is NOT how we have fought in the past. This is never how things were won. But I guess I also have to ask, what the hell are we fighting? Or have we forgotten that too?
I cannot take another video of a black man being murdered and no one past the shade of Olive is in upheaval. I am sick of it. I am sick of living in one America that is in constant upheaval and mourning of bodies, while the other half is in upheaval and mourning over their rights to destroy more bodies. This has got to stop. The whole system is simply shot. The whole system needs a fucking reboot. How have we become so advanced and yet rely so heavily on the archaic? How can this make sense?
To give an example of this extreme split in realities that minorities and whites live, I’ll tell you about my run. I recently moved to the countryside, somewhere I never would’ve dreamed my family would have been able to move. It’s beautiful. It’s the closest to nature I’ve ever been, it’s the cleanest, the quietest. I love it. But the second I came up the road, I noticed that my street, called George, intersected with another main road, called Zimmerman. My house is literally on the intersection of George Zimmerman. I was horrified. I called the town board and asked them if there were any way to get the street name changed, as we were the first people of color to move on this street EVER. How horrendously cruel to have that daily reminder. But when I called the town, they were confused. They had no clue and no cares as to why I had an issue with the name. They promised to get back to me. I have yet to ever hear back.
Then my neighbors told my mom about the lovely scenic route that was up on Zimmerman, as it is very hilly and full of meadows and farmland. Birds singing in the trees and flowers perfuming the air. So upon my mother’s recommendation, I went to see this prairie land everyone spoke so fondly of, and went for a jog. At first, it was beautiful and scenic. I loved the outdoor fragranced air, and kept going up and up the hill. Then I noticed there were fewer and fewer houses. Then there were huge breaks with no houses at all. I had crossed maybe three hills when I took my music out. I noticed the cars weren’t veering to the side as they usually did since the bike lane is narrow. They were whizzing past. Then I had a feeling. This sick feeling in my stomach that I was too far out, and these people would not see me as their neighbor. I decided to just do the incline of the next hill and then turn. I instantly regretted it. Up the hill were two houses, both covered in Trump propaganda and “REPEAL THE SAFE ACT” signage. I saw it with wide eyes and then just began to jog back down. I felt sick and thought, “Ahmaud.” I scolded myself for coming this far, as I already was aware of the faces that the people had made when I passed their houses. My hair was braided and my skin was brown. To them, I was an Indian running out of bounds from treaty land, but I chose to ignore and kept running. I continued to jog down the incline, keeping my eyes on the ginormous hill above me, thinking “If someone were to come down behind me, I would not be able to outrun them on this big of an incline”. And then a truck came down. A white man with a huge grimy beard was driving it, and when he saw me, he just gave me a look that made me want to disappear from his sight and be home. I wanted to be home. Ahmaud just wanted to make it home. The rest of that jog was torturous, I couldn’t stop replaying that video of him being murdered in my mind and thinking of my own mother, seeing my life ending, on the explore page of Instagram.
How cruel this world has been. How cruel this world remains. I am coming on my 22nd birthday and I come to tears thinking about if the hug I gave my mother yesterday would be the last. How he must’ve felt, running, thinking about running to his mother. His family. For his life. No one should have to die like this. Feeling like that.
Post Script Note:
I began this piece on May 7th. It is May 26th, and yet again, a murder of a black man has been filmed and gone viral. And no one is fucking moving. This CANNOT go on. I am taking a vow to no longer stay quiet and allow for things like this to only come up on MY radar while friends and followers stay ignorant and happy. Yes, this is heavy. It is heavy as hell. But when you do not act and try to keep yourself away at all costs because you don’t want to deal with the work it takes to dismantle this and the toll that it has, then you are directly disrespecting my Brown ass. You are telling me that if it were my face in one of those videos, and you did not know me, you would also very well carry on. And I am not okay with that. I am not okay. You should not be either.
And all the other black lives, taken, but never forgotten. We will design a new justice for you, on my life.
Angry. Mad as hell. Hurt. And thoroughly disrespected.