My skin should not make me a target

As+the+Black+Lives+Matter+movement+spreads+worldwide%2C+junior+Kayla+Holt+describes+her+life+as+a+young+black+woman.

Jade Pinkowitz

As the Black Lives Matter movement spreads worldwide, junior Kayla Holt describes her life as a young black woman.

Since the murder of George Floyd, I’ve repeatedly looked at myself in the mirror trying to find what makes me a threat. I look to find the one thing a cop would see before he decides to shoot me. I couldn’t find it. 

As a seventeen-year-old entering my senior year, I think about the possibility that I could die at the hands of a cop. I should be thinking about grades, college or scholarships, not homicide perpetrated by those who promised to “protect and serve.”

Whenever I drive past a cop I change the way I sit and the way I hold the steering wheel. Why? Because the thought of being pulled over terrifies me. Being seen as a criminal due to the color of my skin registers as a flashing sign of danger in my head.

My ancestors survived slavery and fought through Jim Crow laws, but in 2020, we’re still facing racism and oppression. What did we do to deserve such cruel and harsh treatment? It was us who were taken from our homes, beaten, lynched, raped, sold and tortured. We have done nothing but try to leave behind a better world for future generations.

And the only “justification” for our suffering is that we have a higher melanin level in our genetics? Yes, I said higher, because in case you weren’t aware, EVERYONE has melanin. The amount of melanin your body produces determines your hair, eye and skin color — it shouldn’t determine your importance in society.

We’ve experienced racism, we’ve fought discrimination in the workplace, and we’ve endured a “President” being racist. We have swallowed every insult and suffered through every “Karen” who wants to use the police as a weapon against us. We have grasped all the hate we didn’t ask for and turned it into a culture of our own.

We have built ourselves to be business owners, preachers, activists, mothers, fathers and more. We have become better people, yet we are still being murdered.

And I say “we” because when Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery, Antonio Martin, Philando Castile, George Floyd and so many others were taken down by racism they were taken from our community. We are all traumatized by each bullet that snags the lives of our family and friends because we know that we could be next because in every “George Floyd,” I see my father.

The “American Dream” was built by the nightmare my ancestors suffered. America was built on the backs of African Americans and now it is disposing of us as if we’re served our purpose and are no longer needed. That is not okay. None of this is okay.

The color of my skin should not scream danger when my actions cry innocence. I love the culture I come from and the leaders who stand alongside me. The African American culture has so much to offer, so much beauty and it deserves so much better. 

The beautiful spirits who lost their lives at the hands of the government that continues to fail us are the reason we protest. Every sign or fist in the air, every tear shed, every coffin buried is for the ones we’ve lost, the ones we’ve loved and the ones we will continue to protect.

Black Lives Matter and we won’t stop fighting until that is clear. Rest in peace to the beautiful souls we’ve lost.

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