On July 17, 2013, shortly after the Zimmerman verdict, I wrote the following Facebook status:

It is quite frankly not that my life, and the life of black people, are at stake. At the end of the day, we are all foolish to forget the finitude of every single one of our breaths on this earth. Life is not where privilege lies. It is rather death, the ability to die, the ability to deflect death, the ability to die on your own terms, to have a death that is worthy dying for. That is what I am mourning.

My death is at stake.

The death of those who brought me into this world. The death of my siblings. The death of friends. The death of a future generation. This is what I am mourning and fighting for: the worth/worthiness of me…of us…of them…to die.

I came back to this status last night, almost two years to the day, while trying to make sense of #IfIDieInPoliceCustody. For all the ways I am fighting for my right and the right of other black people to breathe and be alive, hashtags like #IfIDieInPoliceCustody reminded me I am always simultaneously fighting for our right to our own ending. I felt this viscerally two years ago when I watched a Florida courtroom indirectly put a black kid on trial for dying and expecting for it to be otherwise. Last night, I saw it unfold for hours as Twitter became a notary of our last wills and testaments, heartbreaking, angry, resistant, mournful, eye-opening, and righteous.

I don’t know if we’ll ever be granted the details of how it became possible for Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, to be pulled over for a minor traffic violation on a Friday only to end up dead, hanging in her jail cell two hours after having breakfast the following Monday morning.

But I do know it’s not inconceivable to see myself in Sandra’s cell. I know the times I’ve exercised caution while bearing a loud mouth and a fist at Occupy Oakland and #BlackLivesMatter protests. I know this for how my mother’s “I love you” has been trailed by prayers for me every chance she gets. She knows I’m not safe anywhere, especially not from those sworn to serve and protect me.

I can only imagine it’s possible for me and many of us to meet our maker under suspicious circumstances beyond our control with the law as our only witness. And this is terrifying because the law lies.

We know this, in part, because we’ve heard law enforcement say we hulk through bullets, that a teenager can magically shoot themselves in the face at close range while restrained, hands handcuffed behind their back, and that seeing one of us hung from swings isn’t evidence of foul play. We know that we live in a world that wants to see us more dead than anything else, and that one of its tactics is to create narratives that defy logic in order to paint us as somehow forever culpable in our downfall.

But we also know this because of the unique way death constitutes our lives as black people. Is it a surprise that #IfIDieInPoliceCustody is not a hashtag appropriated by White Twitter?

We are uniquely attuned to the hereafter, mostly because our society has set it up so that it is natural for us to be dead, or, at the very least, on the verge of death. The very fact that any or all of us wake up in the morning is always an act of defiance. Any number of macro and micro-aggressions we encounter — from being consistently undermined, to being called ugly, to watching our schools crumble, to being the demographic worst hit by the economic recession, to police brutality — remind us of this. Of how often we face being something to be killed and silenced, and how much even something such as suicide —that we could take our own death into our own hands even if we wanted — is unfathomable.

We are a group of people who live with the expectation of dying and die knowing we do not have control over our death. And we exercise every ounce of agency we have over it anyway. We are forced to anticipate our end. We fight to be remembered on our terms. We offer directives on social media. We will tell you how we demand honor.

Nevertheless, the sad truth is that there is still no guarantee that our wishes will be executed. For every moment we exclaim Black Lives Matter, #IfIDieInPoliceCustody demonstrates how black deaths do, too.

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