I shouldn’t have to write this. I shouldn’t have to express my outrage and grief and that unshakable sickness in my gut that only gets worse every time I open Facebook and see another video of a black individual being manhandled and shot by police. I shouldn’t have to worry about my friends who are minorities every time they leave their house. I shouldn’t be afraid to leave mine.
I shouldn’t have to write this. I shouldn’t have to read the same tired quotes about how our criminal justice system is broken, and how those at the top need to be held accountable, because that’s been said ever since we were “freed.” I shouldn’t have to carefully choose the words I write here, so I can get my point across but maintain my composure. I shouldn’t have to feel that there is no hope for this country or this race.
I shouldn’t have to write this. I shouldn’t have to talk about how disgusted I was this summer when the top trending topic was #NationalKissingDay, even though within the same 48 hours four black men were killed by the police – but only one made the news cycle. I shouldn’t have to talk about how it was actually more than four, but I was only aware of those four, and the sinking feeling in my heart that I’ll never know their names.
I shouldn’t have to talk about how I consider shaky Facebook videos more reliable evidence than any news source. I shouldn’t have to talk about how I knew every news channel was going to paint Anton Sterling and Philando Castile in the worst possible light to justify their deaths. I shouldn’t have had to go to sleep last night with the knowledge that I watched a man die. I shouldn’t have to live with the fact that in the same night, I saw footage of a white man fight off two officers for a prolonged period of time before being tazed by the police and restrained without lethal force, knowing full well that had it been a black man, he would have gotten two in the chest before he even got up off the ground.
I shouldn’t have to be afraid of the police officers that I inevitably encounter on the streets of New York. I shouldn’t have to be afraid of having fun because the people who are supposed to be the sentinels of my protection could also be the harbingers of my destruction. I shouldn’t have to leave my home worrying that today might be my last day on this planet. I shouldn’t have to fear that I might never see my parents again, or that I might never get to see my little brother graduate high school, or see my baby sister off on her first day of school. I shouldn’t have to lie to friends and family and say that I don’t want kids because of the responsibility; I know all too well that it’s because I don’t want to bring a child into a world in which they can be killed simply for being different. I shouldn’t want to escape a world that isn’t worth living in.
I shouldn’t have to write this. And you shouldn’t have to read it. Because none of this should have to happen.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.