When our team decided on this week’s To Be or Not To Be prompt, I thought about many directions. Seemingly, there are pros and cons to just about anything depending on who you ask.
While appalled at the violence, I wasn’t shocked, sadly. It’s tough for me to articulate quite how I feel. It also happens that I was in New Orleans at the National Association of Black Journalists conference and on Friday had an opportunity to attend a panel which included Sandra Sterling—Alton Sterling’s aunt—and Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile. Both black men were killed at the hands of police.
During the panel, we watched a clip from Valerie Sterling’s press conference, just moments after learning the not guilty verdict for Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot and killed her son. Most of us didn’t need the refresher. Her passion was so raw and real, it was hard to forget. In particular, I remember one of her passionate remarks being a warning, “Ya’ll are next.”
This weekend’s violence in Charlottesville was not at the hands of police officers, but it still speaks to a mindset in this country. One that devalues human life.
No, I’ve never been attacked by Neo-Nazis or the KKK, but I know the history of these organizations not just from textbooks but firsthand accounts from my grandparents. I know that you don’t want to get hemmed up with cops driving through Charlottesville to this day. And I know that growing up in Prince George’s County, which boasts 5 of the 10 most affluent black communities in the nation, is an anomaly.
Despite how history has treated my people, I am proud to be black. Holistically, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. But there are a lot of experiences I would like to change.
I applaud DeAndre Harris, the 20 year-old young man who can be seen being beaten by white supremacists so badly he required stitches in his head.
My heart goes out to those who white supremacist James Alex Fields drove into with his car. And it breaks for Heather Heyer’s family.
But you would’ve been hard-pressed to get me to Charlottesville.
If the police can get away with killing people like me, on video, how in the world would you expect me to be there?
I’m good on that, I’ll stay behind my computer and retweet the most compelling sentiments or stand in unison in a city where it’s safe. Where I’m safe. Where my body can’t be another body used for bloodsport.
To be or not to be a protestor? Maybe that’s not the question. Maybe the bigger concern for me is to be or not to be alive.
Sitting with other journalists, rewatching the pain on her face and in her words, Valerie Castile’s sentiment felt eerily right. It’s a matter of status, authority, and superiority. Any challenge to that, and it’s only a matter of time before you too are under attack.
Shout out to all the counter protestors in Charlottesville, welcome to the game.