BY REBECCA HEYWARD
Let me tell you a story from my childhood.
When I was in high school, 9th or 10th grade, I don’t really remember, a girl named Elsa was murdered in a fight with another girl over a boy. She was sixteen. I never knew her, but I remember hearing the announcement of her death over the loudspeaker in Spanish class, and sitting in silence and remembrance over a life that was so bright and yet so quickly put out. I remember wondering how girls could kill one another, and over something so trivial. I didn’t understand. I still don’t.
When I was a freshman in college, a person very close to me was murdered. His name was Justin, he was 18. Stabbed in the back by an ex-girlfriend when he went to tell her he was moving and would most likely never see him again. I remember his smile, his laugh, the way he always managed to cheer me up or know when I was struggling with something. We had been friends since middle school and he would go to drama club meetings with his girlfriend, a girl who I knew from elementary school although she was a year younger. I don’t know what drove her to murder someone, and I never will.
When I was 21 years old, a young boy in Florida was murdered. His name was Trayvon Martin. For months I watched and followed the trial of his murderer in the hoped that our justice system wouldn’t fail us. I saw the look of sadness in the face of my younger cousins, and the looks of hopelessness and loss in the face of my elders, on the day that George Zimmerman was acquitted. At first I thought that maybe it was a mistake, after all, Florida also found Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering her young daughter, maybe they were just wrong. But living in a world as connected as we are, I started to realize that a lot of people didn’t think it was a big deal that a child was murdered in cold blood. I started to think that to them, black lives don’t matter.
I’m now 23 years old. In the past six months alone there have been at least four murders of black men in our community. Unlike the ones in my story though, they were not by peers, nor were they by people who may not have known any better. These murders, because that’s all I can really call them, were by cops. Michael Brown was shot six times by a police officer named Darren Wilson on August 6th, 2014. Today, a grand jury decided that this police officer would not even be indicted. He will not even stand trial for shooting someone six times, which is beyond even the force needed to subdue someone. I continue to think they believe that black lives don’t matter. As I’m writing this, I can’t help but think about the twelve year old black boy who was shot by a cop for having a bb gun this week. Or the unarmed man who was shot in Brooklyn by a rookie cop who died in the arms of his girlfriend, just for walking to his apartment. I see these incidents, and it makes me want to believe that black lives don’t matter.
But I want you all to know one thing. Black lives DO matter. Not only do Black lives matter, but so do all lives. ALL LIVES MATTER. We shouldn’t be killing our own, and we shouldn’t be letting others kill us either but that does not mean that we go out and kill others. We do not fight violence with more violence, we fight violence with peace. Nothing will change if we don’t do it ourselves, and the public opinion won’t change about us until we show a united, peaceful front and show change in our own communities. I’m tired of being sad and defeated, and I’m tired of black lives not mattering.
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