The Invisible Struggle of Memorial Day
Today, we celebrate Memorial Day which is a federal holiday to honor and mourn military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. We also use this day to remember our loved ones who’ve passed away. We never forget.
Memorial Day is also a time for families to gather together for a little backyard BBQ to welcome in summertime. This year, we weren’t expecting a global pandemic. So, things may look a little different but some things remain the same.
Today, I am thinking about Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, fatally shot in Glynn County, Georgia on February 23. He was out for a run when he was pursued and killed by two white men.
I’m also thinking of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, killed during a police raid of her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13. She was shot eight times by police, as they issued a “no-knock warrant” of her apartment on a narcotics investigation – the wrong residence.
It’s easy to feel numb thinking of all the Black men and women who have senselessly lost their lives at the hands of police. So tired of talking about it, tired of meeting about it, tired of marching about it, and tired of social media hashtags. They deserve better.
Getting killed by police is the leading cause of death for Black men in America. Greater than suicide, an accident, or even assault.
About 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America can expect to die at the hands of police, according to a new study of deaths involving law enforcement officers. That makes them 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with the police.
That also means every time my brothers, father, or fiancé leave the house, there’s a great chance they won’t return. Each of them can tell you their experiences with the police – being falsely accused, pulled over for no reason, or for looking like they didn’t belong.
And for Black women, it’s an invisible struggle. Black women are also murdered by police. They are raped, assaulted, and injured by police. They are arrested unlawfully by police; tried, convicted, and incarcerated for defending themselves against non-police violence.
We live in a constant state of fear, and have to sit down with our children – especially boys – about how to interact with the police to avoid being harmed or killed. There is a lack of accountability – both legally and politically. We just continue to be hunted like animals and nothing is done about it, except organizing a discussion about it.
President Obama said it plainly in his commencement address to HBCU graduates last week: “We see it when a Black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning,” Obama says. “Injustice like this isn’t new.”
So, this Memorial Day is indeed different. No cookouts to attend, no festivals or events to go to… not even flying home to see family. It’s these four walls. It’s sitting in reality and trying desperately to figure out what I can do or say to make change in this world.