We are Innocent
by Rudi Nkem
How – a simple word but in its own way can be so complex. It can be asked in several different ways and may be responded to with many different answers. This also happens to be the question I ask myself, when I wake up to viral news articles all reporting the same recurrent tragedies. Articles about black people around the world being victimized by justice systems – systems where the truth has become obsolete. How? How many more times do we need our morning sun to be shadowed in pain by the deaths of our brothers and sisters? Again, I ask “how?” How do we keep failing to learn from past mistakes, from past fatalities, and from past actions? Police departments still fail to cleanse their ranks of unfit officers. And again and again, casualties persist. How many times do we have to take to the streets, to social media, and to public panels in order to finally affect change?
Throughout my past ten years in Canada, I have become a little nosy. I have been peeking through our windows to learn about the social development of our next door neighbour, the United States. Don’t get me wrong—I am a lot nosier than that. I have learned to look past our closest neighbours; spying into the yards of other global residents and also looking back to acknowledge the injustice in my own country. My observances in the window seat (or perhaps the chair in front of my macbook), have allowed me to see how Black communities are in constant worry due to the actions of police officers. The irony is stomach-churning and disgusting. And this has been a prevalent issue long before my writing of this article. It dates all the way back to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, further down to the Civil Rights Movements, and ultimately stemming from chattel enslavement. Considering this nightmare of a past, many Black people question their safety in the U.S. I can’t help but to turn this article into a questionnaire. It seems like the only way to truly express how bewildered I am by the sore corruption in our world. Is it fair that my mum feels a surge of anxiety every time I travel to the States? Is it fair that people who want to experience the joys of the U.S. must feel afraid? Is it fair that the beauty and joy the country holds is often opaqued by corruption-engrossed political figures, police departments, and justice systems? Not at all.
For the longest time I have wanted to pursue post-secondary studies in the South. But me? In others words, someone tall with brown eyes, chocolate coated skin, and coiled hair? Me? People like me are victimized by the system for wearing hoodies, selling CDs, reaching for their wallets, and ultimately, for being Black. Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and countless others were victims of this crooked system. We are in constant fear because it takes so little for us to be reduced to a hashtag and it takes so much for perpetrators to face true justice. In light of the recent police brutalities, conflicted individuals have begun taking it upon themselves to fulfill what they think is true justice. Ms Lauryn Hill describes eloquently what this situation has escalated to: there are only two positions – victimizer and victim – and both end up in destruction trusting this crooked system.
Racism is still very prevalent in our communities. And being “colour blind” is not the way to solve this problem. Our colour is a powerful component of who we are. It can be used to empower ourselves or to enslave a people. Rather than doing the latter, we should accept colour in its entirety along with the uniqueness and culture that accompanies it. With the help of the Daily Show, my inner circle, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Tupac, I have come to believe that we must recognize historical racism and use this knowledge to lead a better and stronger world; not only for black people but those of yellow, brown, red, and even white skin pigment. The truth of the matter is that all lives matter. That being said, #BlackLivesMatter, has the implication that all lives matter and is not meant to exclude or ignore the hardships that other races have endured. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is one to create unity among people and fight against the recurring injustice that dates back to historical times. This darkness and evil in our world affects us all and will continue to do so unless we enact change. As Reverend Martin Luther King once said, “[w]hatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
How many more mockingbirds are going to be shot out of the sky before we recognize their innocence?
*A contribution to the ‘When Will I Be Free?’ Collection*
About the writer
Rudi is a sixteen year old African-Canadian, born in Australia. As he has travelled much of the globe, he now finds himself attending high school in Ottawa, Ontario. He was inspired to write in grade ten by his wise and insightful English teacher. It was a surprise to most considering that he was not the type to come within a 10-metre radius of a book, let alone a piece of paper and pen. Leaving the past in the past, he has learned to freely and joyously express himself through the arts of penmanship. In addition to his writing, he plays basketball competitively for both his high school team and club team. He also wishes to pursue a degree in the Environmental Sciences in hopes to create a positive change in our world.