It’s been 13 days since ABC agents brutalized a fellow black uva student, Martese, on the corner. In the days immediately following I couldn’t articulate my feelings. I was angry, I was sad, and I was hurt all the same time. I saw the picture of Martese laying on the corner, a space I frequent often, covered in his own blood calling out in pain and my heart went to him, his mother, to my fellow students and to my little brother. See I was shocked, not because I thought incidents like this didn’t happen. Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and the countless bodies lost to police brutality told me that wasn’t true, so why was I surprised? See something changes when its in your own backyard it shakes you, not the possibility- I knew it was possible and I never thought UVA was immune from racism or overzealous officers–the response from your community–or at least what you considered to be your community shocks you.
**Now allow me a a brief aside to mention that I have never been prouder of the black student body at UVA and many allies who came together in efforts to protest, organize and make sure that the powers at be did not brush this “incident” (if you can have the audacity to call it that) under the rug. **
I am set to graduate at UVA this may. I have given the last four years of my life to Mr. Jefferson’s University and I was promised that at the end I would wear The Honors of Honors–I will have graduated from the University of Virginia. I love UVA. I am not blind to its problems, but I loved it nonetheless. So I was shocked, disgusted by the actions of my peers, who demand we “wait for details” –which I do not recall anyone saying when ABC pulled guns on Elizabeth Daley (charge it to privilege I guess). I was disgusted by an administration, who did not once offer the emotional support to its students. The emotional and mental damage a moment could cause to students, who had the security blanket of UVA ripped from them. Students who by most standards had done everything right reminded that they we are pariahs in this society, allowed only the scraps of dignity the institution can spare them.
See let UVA spin it, this is just another bad “incident” in UVA’s rough year. Except its not an isolated incident. In fact none of the incidents are isolated, but I digress. If you read the garbage on yik yak you’d lose your mind–you’d be broken hearted because that cowardly bigot, may be sitting next to you or you might read in the cavalier daily that racism is not systematic. So I’m mad I want to scream but then the anger takes over, like anger does and I’m sad, I’m scared, afraid to feel those emotions because then I might become the worst thing–hopeless.
So as the days pass and I prepare for graduation, I’m left in a state of confusion. Do I love this place? Can this place love me? As my peers and I work to challenge the system to bring attention to long-standing issues to the forefront, in the back of my mind is my younger brother. See its not the lack of an email or the sham law enforcement panel (PR work at its best) that hurts that angers me, its the lack of empathy, the insensitivity. Even if you are privileged enough to never know the realities of racism, are we not people? Can I and the other black bodies have to always just to why we do not deserve your brutalization, the attacks.
James Baldwin once said, “to be negro in this county and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage almost all the time.” Was I always conscious? I like to think so, but distance provides comfort. The rage I could understand, I expected, it was its manifestation as sadness that shakes me still. See I said before I love UVA, but I now I have work to do–along with me peers–to ensure that when I graduated and all the brown bodies that follow can truly call it an honor.