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What can I do?


I want you to live.
I’d been overwhelmed with emotions all day at work.
If you get stopped by the police, could you please put your hands up and just do what they say?
I imagined this conversation that I’d have with my two brothers after work.

I retreated to the bathroom to cry as I played it over in my head because I knew that even if they did listen and obey an officer, there’d be no guarantee that they would make it out alive. It wouldn’t be up to them. It wasn’t up to so many who have been murdered by police officers before.

And though I try to forget – because I am peaceful and blissfully naive – I can’t get the image of an officer resting his hand on his gun in front of me out of my head. He was instructing me to move away from my dentist’s office building last spring. I was already on my way to the car. My appointment was over, I’m glad my life was not over that day. I wish I didn’t sound like I was exaggerating. I wish it was something I could dismiss.

We’d been through this before, my oldest brother, had lived in Westerville for more than 10 years, worked in a leadership position at the community college; yet, he was pulled over by police in his neighborhood for no offense other than driving while black, searched and handcuffed. Essentially he was only harassed and thankfully he lived to tell about it. He even started a committee against the misuse of police power in his community.

My other brother, who wears Black Panther t-shirts and is also gainfully employed, is not quiet about unfairness and injustice; I worry most about him. We were all given the same speech from our parents about what to do when stopped by police. So naive at 16, I didn’t want to believe that someone would ticket me for being black or hurt me for no reason, that is until I researched the stories (Amadou Diallo was the first I remember) and witnessed it myself. I remember the night when my other brother and I were stopped -but he wasn’t speeding- and they made him get out to take a breathalyzer. We were 20 and 17 respectively and only had Fruitopia to drink.

As I grow, I submit to spiritual understanding. My pastor reminds us that we live in a fallen world. We can’t expect to get to utopia, if only we do this… or if only people did that… Yet, the sting is not softer when a black man is killed by a police officer for no reason. Apathetically reporters report, then move on to the next topic as if it were as common as rainy weather. Evil is at work but as Christians, he tells us, it is our job to not let evil have the last word. Still — though I know riots don’t solve anything, I want to break shit. I have emotions that can’t go anywhere. “Be silent and you choose the side of the oppressor,” the quote in a popular photo rings out to me. But I have been around long enough to know that hashtags are vapors in a digital space. We control nothing that will reverse the hate and fear in each individual police officer, neighborhood watchmen or firearm-carrying individual from a protected race. It’s not that I’m silent. It’s that I don’t know what to do.

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