For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to find the words that haven’t been repeated for years and years by Black people fed up with systemic racism. I’m tired and scared of an unforeseen future; there’s a heavy weight on my chest of fearing for mine and many others’ lives. For 24 years, I have lived in a country that has made how it feels about Black people very clear, but I am constantly shocked at the new levels of blatant racism.
On Friday, a Black CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, was arrested and detained by Minnesota State troopers while covering protests seeking justice for the murder of George Floyd on live television. Though Jimenez and his team showed their credentials and the big reporting equipment could be seen clear as day, they were still arrested. The Minnesota State troopers took to Twitter to say, “In the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.”
This statement, however, was a blatant false framing of what people saw happen on camera. This apparent act to silence and suppress the truth broke my already shattered heart. As a journalist, we are taught to be ethical and always tell the truth through honest, solid reporting. But as a Black journalist, I know it’s not always so simple or easy, especially when colleagues turn the other cheek and ignore every injustice.
A few months back, I was at my breaking point and shared my frustrations, “It’s been day after day of the most outrageous racism, and micro-aggressions. I’m tired. I’m not as strong as my ancestors. I don’t have the bandwidth for it anymore. And I’m tired of people then flipping it on you like something is wrong with you. Something is wrong with this ... system. And I’ve reached my limit of what I can take.”
To my white counterparts, it was a “suicide attempt.” But in reality, it was a cry to be heard finally, for Black people to matter in every industry, community, state and country around the world.
It’s scary to wonder when a racist system will no longer allow me to live my Black life to the fullest, but the fear caused by years of racism is embedded deep. I fear I won’t live a long-fulfilled life, because I could be another victim of police brutality. And sadly, if that doesn’t kill me, the stress and trauma of living in systemic racism will leave me shattered.
As far as the words I have for my non-black counterparts: Using me or any other Black person as a poster child to appease your guilt is not the answer. The answer is being genuine and actively addressing the systemic racism that Black people face daily. Be a true ally. Fear of losing your job, social media status, etc. is not an excuse to validate not condemning racism. If someone is experiencing repeated abuse and you are aware and do nothing to speak out, you are complacent. I’m not sure how much more simplified this needs to be put after generations crying out for help. But what I do know is racism has left so many hearts shattered.
Note: This essay was also published on Medium.