As a woman, for my entire life I’ve had to deal with a lot of fears. Fear of good things not happening and fear of bad things happening. Not only a fear of bad things happening to me, but also being blamed for them. I’ve faced the fear of being sexually assaulted then blamed for what I was wearing, how late I was out, how many drinks I had, or how many people I had slept with in recent months. Excuses would be made about why my body was touched against my will.
Recently I’ve developed another fear as a Black woman, either I or someone I love could be murdered by a police officer and end up being blamed for it. When I looked around all of my beautiful Black friends and family members I thought, any one of us could end up a hashtag. My mother could being driving and not signal. My male friend could have his hoodie over his head. My female friend could be in her house with her son. My grandfather could be selling coins. My car could break down. I was in a constant state of fear. Not only for people I knew, but also people I didn’t.
I couldn’t stand to see another person being shot in the middle of the street with their hands up. Then to see their kids, wives, parents cry and call out for justice in front of the media while people wrote hateful messages under those posts. The growing support for the extermination of Black people as well as other minorities partially prompted my move from the United States. I needed to escape the constant sorrow I felt every day that a new video was released about an unarmed Black person being killed at the hands of a police officer.
I thought that distance in miles would mean distance mentally and emotionally. It was draining to wake up and see another person murdered then another police officer not being found at fault in anyway then another “All Lives Matter” post about how Black people are crazy to think there’s something wrong with the system. Thugs, bad men, unstable, criminals, uncooperative, suspicious, shady characters, Black, all one and the same in the eyes of the media and internet trolls.
You hold a book you get shot, your car breaks down you get shot, you walk you get shot, you’re mentally ill you get shot, you notify an officer that you’re a licensed gun carrier you get shot. While white men are caught on video wielding knifes at police, blow up buildings, have shootouts injuring the innocent, physically assault police, and are arrested to stand trial. But don’t you dare say there’s something wrong with the system!
My heart was torn because I want to be in the States to march in the streets, make signs, show my support, have meaningful discussions, be apart of some sort of solution. On the other hand my mind, spirit, and soul was being chipped at almost everyday. I was tired of disadvantages people outrage by police response in their communities being portrayed as animals. I was tired of people calling peaceful protests and Black Lives Matter supporters a hate group that incites violence against police. I was tired of people calling systematic oppression an excuse Black people created in their heads. I was tired of people saying “Make America Great Again” as if it were ever that great.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I cried every single time I read an article, scrolled through my timeline, watched a video, typed a hashtag, saw a documentary, read people’s responses. I wanted to do so much to invoke change but then I saw that no justice was being served time and time again. With eyewitness accounts, suspicious police activity of turning their body cameras off, surveillance or dash cam videos being released, coroners determining these deaths as murders but their murderer was never charged, instead they received paid leave. I though how can we receive justice from a system built and dependent on our downfall?
I thought that if I left, my mind could rest from the trauma and my heart wouldn’t hurt so much. I could create some space and seek refuge. It didn’t work. The distance in miles couldn’t keep me from feeling the same disappointment and despair as new incidents of Black people being murdered by police came to light. Nothing had changed. The only thing that changed was that I realized Black people in America weren’t alone.
In Germany the Nazi party was gaining more support. The British were desperately trying to close their borders to refugees. In Italy a man I met witnessed first hand refugees being beaten and kicked off trains by police while trying to seek refuge. The victims were different, the reasoning was different, but the hate and violence was the same.
The entire world seems to be going backwards. Candidates to run entire countries are running on platforms built on exclusion, discrimination, and separation. Not just of races but also classes. There has always been racism. There has always been systems built on oppression. There has always been people who justify the murders of a specific demographic. I just hope no matter what country we are in, those of us who believe in equality can band together to keep the world from spiraling out of control.
When I mentioned my need to separate myself from the racism in America someone said to me, “You know you’re going to face racism here in Germany too, right?” As if I needed a reminder that the world was full of people who would discriminate against me because of the color of my skin. There was always going to be someone who wouldn’t date me because I was Black. Wouldn’t hire me because I was Black. Wouldn’t respect me because I was Black. I could escape my location, but I could never escape the color of my skin.