(Op-ed) The Sentiments of a Black Male: In 2020 I Feel My Ancestor's Pain
Updated: Jul 21
Author: Shamon Lawrence
Everyone has control over my body. Except me.
Being Black is a desire to dedicate your Black body to being everything your ancestors could not. It is in that dedication that Black people lose control: our bodies are beaten, defiled, and emotionally lynched.
Watching government-endorsed white-supremacy unfold on my television and social media feeds made me think about my goals and aspirations. The thoughts about my school New York University being an “open campus” scares me sometimes. In my mind, I play out these scenarios of what I would do if I was suspected of a crime I know I did not commit. What would I say? How would I act? How do I tame my body? How do I make it less offensive to their ideas of white settler colonialism?
When I first heard about Trayvon Martin, I saw myself. A Black teen shot and killed. I related to the “Black teen” part, but I longed to find a way to prevent me from being the “shot and killed.” I soon realized there was no way to do that until the carceral state of the United States reflects a fair system. Black people are more represented in prisons than in higher education because of this systemic flaw.
Source: Boston Globe
I remember the 2004 movie Soul Plane, where both pilots were incapacitated and unable to fly the airplane. Flight attendants and passengers successfully landed the plane, but it came with great consequences and potential lawsuits. It was unnatural for people who were not pilots to fly a plane. It is unnatural for people who are not Black to try and control Black bodies. Black people need control of their Black bodies.
In his book “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates explained his own experience as such: “To be Black in Baltimore of my youth was to be naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease. The nakedness is not an error, nor pathology. The nakedness is the correct and intended result of policy...” He names the tools that the United States has used to oppress Black people. We now stand 155 years after slavery was abolished in the states, yet it has been traded with other forms of racism, bigotry, codified segregation by way of redlining, and a perpetual need to silence the Black voice every time it is angry.
My ancestors were beaten, raped, and robbed of their sense of identity. The Black Lives Matter Movement was designed out of disgust that Black bodies are still being beaten, raped, and robbed of their sense of identity. We wonder when our innocent childhood faces became intimidating enough for us to be killed by genocide.
As trees grow, their roots take up more ground and they go deeper into the soil layers. It becomes invincible. The longer that deeply rooted issues like the mistreatment of Black people continue, the harder it will be to get rid of this system. Seeds of inequality and injustice were planted centuries ago and have blossomed into a tree growing for over 400 years. Moments like the slave revolts by Nat Turner, the Underground Railroad by Harriet Tubman, pan-Africanism, and the writings of Frederick Douglass have all cut down the limbs to this tree. They made it easier for us to begin chopping down the tree. Black Lives Matter is our power tool to undo all the years of trauma and oppression and hold the Government accountable in providing us our rights without any clause or stipulation.
There is more to be done than just performative allyship. We need to strengthen bonds within minority communities. We need to live by the South African concept of Ubuntu, “I am because we are.” Hopefully one day I can say this: I am free from the target on my back that I was born with and the stereotypes, implicit biases, systemic, and individual racism because we are tired of seeing our brothers and sister suffer at the hands of white supremacist policing. I cannot begin to name every Black person who has been a victim of police violence, but I assure you there are more than just George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. This is why Black lives matter.
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