Growing up in Dallas, Texas, I never saw tension between races. Everything around me was diverse; my schools, my church and even the extra-curricular activities I was involved in. Then the incident with Trayvon Martin happened, and it really heightened my attitudes and senses of the issues between black and white people. I guess you can say I was ignorant to the fact that these types of issues were still happening in the 21st century. That was just the beginning. The next big case that happened was Mike Brown, which resulted in violence and the start of even more and worse police brutality towards black people. I became more aware of my surroundings and the people I associated with.
Coming to JBU and Siloam Springs was definitely a lot harder. As a black person I deal with dirty looks from others and cashiers that don’t want to touch my hand when taking my money. My first thought was, “I won’t have to deal with racism that much because I’m a really light skinned black person. But boy was I wrong. As my time here continued I was becoming more aware of where I stand in America as a black person.
I became aware that white privilege is something real. My white friends don’t think when a cop stops them that it may be the end of their life even if they just have the wrong tone of voice, or try to reach for their insurance and license. I had friends who started to see the things that I would go through and it was hard because there’s nothing I could do about it. If I would get an attitude with them then I would be labeled as an angry black woman.
Do black lives really matter? Let’s get this straight, the Black Lives Matter movement is not saying that only black lives matter; its saying that at this period of time in America, black lives aren’t being valued like they should be. Specifically, black men are being seen as suspicious or dangerous. The reality is that the African American population has terrible stereotypes. Not all black people came from the “hood” or “the ghetto,” are uneducated, sell drugs, are in gangs or are violent. Yeah, sure there are some, but there are some in every race.
How often is it that you hear of police brutality of a white man because he looks suspicious? Rarely. The fact is that black men and women are being killed by police officers and random people because of the stereotype that they’re suspicious or armed and dangerous. When these cases began to increase I was not only worried for the men in my family but women as well. Any given day I can be a Sandra Bland or a Philando Castile. When I see officers, I get terrified for my life and those around me. It’s sad to say, but I feel a lot safer when I have my white friends around me.
Things shouldn’t be the way they are. Black men and women, you are loved and valued. If you want to discuss this further or have a disagreement, I encourage you to come to MOSAIC, which meets every other Thursday in the Dye Conference room, and join the conversation.
Graves is a senior majoring in youth ministries. She can be reached at GravesAS@jbu.edu.