Coming to the Light
“Believe it or not, 8% was a very large number. To put it into perspective, of every 50 students, 4 of them were black.”
Growing up in a predominately white area, I was always one of a few black students in my class. Throughout my youth, I was always able to count on two hands how many black people were in my grade. In class, we talked about Black History and slavery because we had too, but never had true dialogue about the lives of black people. Growing up where I did, I was very privileged, but sheltered to the realities that black people face. Social media wasn’t as big 10 years ago as it is today, so we weren’t constantly seeing bad news in the media. My senior year in high school when it was time to start applying to colleges, a huge aspect of where I applied to school was the percentage of African Americans students. Graduation came and went, and I was off to the University of California, Riverside, with a whopping 8% African Americans. This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Believe it or not, 8% was a very large number. To put it into perspective, of every 50 students, 4 of them were black. If there were 20,000 students, 1,600 or them identified as African American. In college, I became very involved with the black community. Joining many different clubs, I was a prominent member of my campus, and strived to better my university by challenging people to open their minds to different cultures. While I was in college, social media became more prominent. The news of several unjust murders, beginning with Trayvon Martin, started spreading like wild fire and became mainstream. One after another, black males and females were slain in the streets. This was the birth of the “Black Lives Matters” movement. Social Media became a platform for people to express their opinions on many societal issues. I saw more and more black students at my university expressing their concerns on social media, ending their posts with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
I believe that today, more than any time in the past, black men and women are profiled because of the color of their skin. My sophomore year in college, there was a string of break in’s in Riverside. I remember walking into the African Student Programs building and hearing everyone talking about a guy that we all knew at school that was arrested. For privacy purposes, let’s say his name was Jerome. Jerome was a fifth year student at the time. He was about six feet five inches, 250 pounds, had facial hair, and was black. He was walking home from school one afternoon on the street that happened to be one of the streets where there was a break in, and out of no where, got tackled to the ground by police because he “fit a description.” Jerome was later released by the police because he had nothing on him and they had no evidence that he had any relation to the break in’s close to campus. He was just another black man trying to get from point A to point B, who was profiled by the police. This is when we realized we had to do something. From that point forward, we were more vocal on our campus about the fact that black lives must matter. Black orgs on campus started planning candle light vigils after the murders of many black men. We participated in many demonstrations such as die-ins, and marches around our campus expressing the need for change.
In wake of the Black Lives Matter movement people began to question why there was a singling out for just black lives. They began to take a stand, however it wasn’t in support, but rather the suggestion that all lives mattered. Every time a black man was killed, I would see several Facebook posts ending with the hashtag #AllLivesMatter. People I grew up with were sharing articles about black males being more likely to shoot at police than police at black men. Instantly heat broken, I was forced to realize that the community I grew up in wasn’t how I thought it was. Growing up, I never experienced racism first hand. All the white people that I went to school with loved me, so they must love all black people, right? Well I was wrong.
I was so angry because more black men and women were being killed, and more cultures were trying to justify the killings. When Michael Brown was killed in 2014, people used his robbing a convenient store as the justification for his death. People believed separating black lives was something that should not be done or tolerated. This was a shock to me because the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t about seclusion, but rater the complete opposite… inclusion. Our entire country was built on the seclusion of black people, but all we have ever wanted is our lives to be just as relevant as all others.