It’s been 4 years since the murder of Trayvon Martin, and I still feel hopeless. I don’t always reside in this state of sadness. During moments of joy communally shared between black people, I remember the interconnectedness of our blackness. Finding refuge in the fact that black people praise one another for beauty and the creation of art puts me in a state of elated paralysis. But like death, the harsh reality finds its way back into my psyche to remind me of the violence against black bodies.

I find it hard to put into words the feelings that take over when another black person is murdered by the police. What initially hits me is sadness. Sadness because of the life that is lost and the justice that will never be served. That sadness quickly turns to rage. Yet society expects me to not outwardly express my rage. At what point am I allowed to be frank? I want to tear sh*t apart. The seemingly futile attempts to receive fair and equal treatment under the law thrusts me into a state of unconsciousness, reminding me that black people were never included in the American dream.

Part of me feels like I should be used to this cycle — black person murdered by police, media reports, police deny liability and dig for the worst possible image of the victim they can find in an attempt to vilify, police and media search for past infractions, and on and on and on. Prayers are sent and black America is lectured on “fixing their problems” and instructed to just “forgive and forget.” 

But how can I forget a legacy of unapologetic state sanctioned violence against black bodies? So I continually ask everyone the same questions: How can people who pay taxes be treated like animals? Why doesn’t the NRA viciously protect the right of black Americans to legally carry weapons?

The repetition of this cycle breeds fury I am not supposed to express. But I shouldn’t have to be passive aggressive about American citizens being murdered by their own government. Black people have the right to stand on street corners. Black people have the right to sell cigarettes. Black people have the right to sleep and the right to wear hoodies and the right to purchase Skittles – or at least that’s what we thought. But the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” seems to only be applicable to a certain type of American.

Alton Sterling is the 558th person to be killed by the police this year. He was an American citizen and a father of five children. Yet, this American citizen was murdered by the people assigned to protect him. How can black people truly be safe if those sworn to protect and serve them go about their jobs like its a hunting expedition? 

Truth be told, I don’t just feel hopeless, I feel helpless. The task of uprooting a sickness that has wrecked this country since its founding is not as simple as voting in elections. White supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia seem to have found a way to perfectly coexist while creating the facade of a free and democratic society. I feel helpless, but I’m afraid to say that aloud.

We are told to pray and remain respectable. We are told not blast NWA at protests because “it can paint the wrong picture.” But why should I have to engage in respectability? F*ck respectability politics. The police weren’t respectable when they murdered #AltonSterling. 

Issa Rae started a scholarship fund for the children in the Sterling family. You can donate here.

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