Take a good look at that. Study it. Let it be burned into your memory so that you’ll recall this image years later. Go on. Take a really good look at it.
That’s the only time you will see my name as a hashtag.
Let me qualify. Maybe I’ll do something great enough in life to be a trending topic on Twitter. Writing the next great American classic. Community activism. Maybe even for a viral piece from A Fresh Voice (I can dream. Right?). Whatever the case, my name will not be a hashtag for being an unarmed black man killed by a police officer.
Or, should I say, I endeavor for my name not to be a hashtag.
The scariest part of writing this is realizing that this is out of my control. Doesn’t matter how I dress. My diction. How I carry myself. All it takes is one time. The right circumstances. A specific officer. The right amount of fear. A boatload of justification. Everything else is a wash after that. What do I mean? I’ll tell you.
In every high profile police shooting of an unarmed civilian, the same steps occur.
Step 1 – Have an altercation with civilian
Step 2 – Civilian gets shot and dies
Step 3 – News media outlets produce the story (facts to be skewed towards target audience)
Step 4 – Officer is placed on administrative leave
Step 5 – Court hearings that ultimately decide said officer is absolved of all wrongdoing
Step 6 – Officer is allowed back on the force, and a family is left in mourning
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Wait a minute. Repeat? Did I just type that? That’s how much of a common occurrence these situations have become. I could throw out a laundry list of names to which some reading this will justify why every one of them died. They’ll throw around phrases like “I’m sorry for all parties involved.” Or “If they would have complied…..” Fake empathy. Some don’t even have that. They are glad said party is dead because “That’s what thugs get.” Meanwhile, I sit here sympathizing with the family because that could have been me.
I take these situations personally. For Trayvon. Sandra. Tamir. Philando. Terence. Rekia. All you have to do interchange my name with one of them. I understand someone being fearful of you for no reason other than their assumptions. Clutching purses. Moving their kids out of my way. Locking their doors when they see me coming. I had one lady literally get pale in the face as she saw me approaching.
Thankfully, none of that was life threatening for me.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that is about choosing the side that agrees with their opinion instead of being about right and wrong. When I write about not being a hashtag, it’s not a shot at police. Nor is it a dismissing of those who have died from police altercations. It’s an expression for my will to survive. It’s a plea for my name not to be in the #JusticeFor group (the fact that this is a group is a travesty in itself). It’s an understanding that no matter what I do, the perception of this brown skin will not change unless they change it.
Will I become a hashtag? I certainly pray not.