By Ashley Stoney, blavity.com
The past few days have been exhausting. After watching two separate raw footage videos of Alton Sterling being murdered by two cops, I woke up to another shocking video of a black man who lay dying for the world to see at the hands of a cop. These modern day lynchings have sparked social media conversation in my hometown of Washington, D.C. In fact, a family friend is being investigated for his emotional reaction to watching black men die over and over again on his social media timelines.
Race is a sensitive issue, to say the least.
And I’m biased in my opinions as a black woman who was raised by a black man and related to black men, but my initial observation is that while my timeline is full of emotional responses to the modern day lynchings we witnessed on TV and social media. Hour after hour, I noticed that many of my social media friends who posted about the tragic shooting at Pulse, the terrorism in France and the shooting of a Gorilla were silent at the not just news, but literal videos of black men dying on TV at the hands of men who were hired to serve and protect our countries.
The lack of empathy toward African-American men exists because they are not seen as “good” people. Black culture is one that is heavily appropriated, from our style to our music. And although it’s fun in jest and/or for brand sponsorships, it’s deemed thuggish and criminal when an African-American man dies in front of you on your screen, over and over. In those cases, your imperfect criminal record is why you deserved to die by law enforcement. Your carrying of a concealed weapon (that had you been another race would be irrelevant) is why you deserved to die. Your intimidating stature is why you deserved to die. Your questions to a superior race about why you’ve been stopped, is seen as why you deserved to die.
I’m shaken, stirred and furious.
Four years ago, my fiancé, the father of my child, could have been added to the long list of black men who died because they fit the description of a crime in a gentrifying neighborhood. As he came to my grandmother’s house for dinner, he was handcuffed outside of my home — in a neighborhood that was highly un-policed until they started gentrifying. We raced outside and asked questions as we were berated by white cops and instructed by him, who’d had guns pulled on him by cops numerous times, to please stay put and stay quiet.
Knowing that the wrong flinch, the wrong question and the wrong cop who had the wrong kind of day can impact the life or death of the men in my family is terrifying. Knowing and seeing first-hand that no matter your career, degree or clout, routine traffic stops, loud music, baggy clothes and illegal CDs and DVDs are a means to death for me (remember, Sandra Bland) and the men in my family is horrifying.
I’m exhausted by having to constantly prove my value and worth to others.
By having to explain my culture. By having to worry when I get a call that my fiancé has been stopped by the cops and thinking he’s 60 seconds away from death. By having a daughter who has to grow up in a country not dissimilar to that of my grandmother’s America.
I urge all of you to express empathy and try to understand the feelings of your black friends, peers and coworkers today. We are hurting, we are scared, and we are scarred. We do not have a Facebook filter or memes going viral outside of our own community. Our writers and social media influencers are mobilizing our community and attempting to reach broader readers, but I urge of you to take a second to empathize, understand we are hurting and truly reflect on why Black Lives Matter.