When Will America Love Us?

On May 31st I published a piece about the protests going on around the country after the tragic murder of George Floyd. I thought maybe, just maybe, we’d stop being targeted after that. Silly me for thinking I wouldn’t have to write another piece like this.

I’ll be honest, this is something I wanted to talk about more on my podcast but couldn’t make it through any recording without crying, so I have turned to writing about it instead.

I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t picture myself in each one of these situations. I’ve pictured myself as Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Jacob Blake, or as the protesters who were shot and killed the other day.

Trayvon Martin’s murder opened my eyes. I was going into 8th grade and moving to Orlando, Florida, 25 minutes away from where he was killed. I didn’t see how George Zimmerman could possibly get away with it, and then he did. 

That summer and every year after has shown me, no matter what I do, no matter how good of a person I try to be, no matter how many people I attempt to help, my life can be ended just because someone saw my skin color as a threat, and nothing will happen to the killer.

I am someone who would much rather risk my life standing up for something than sit idly by acting like nothing is happening.

So as John Lewis told me to do when I was 11 years old, I will continue to get into “good trouble”. Whatever happens next as a result, I’m cool with it.

Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back in front of his three kids. He was trying to break up a fight, he did not have a gun on him and they still shot him. Luckily, Blake didn’t lose his life but he is now paralyzed and his life will never be the same. 

Was Jacob Blake a saint? No. But as Taylor Rooks said: 

“A Black Person shouldn’t have to be perfect or extraordinary or a college grad or a parent in order to explain why they deserved to not be shot by a police officer. This is a simple concept.”

It’s frustrating when I hear “Jacob Blake isn’t the hill to die on” when Jacob Blake alone isn’t the hill we are dying on. There is a mountain of black lives that were not valued by this country. That is what we are so mad about.

So now I pose a question:

When will America love us?

Because right now it feels like America loves what we do, but not who we are. America loves our music, our culture, our fashion, our athletes, but it doesn’t love us as people.

We the sports and the music, do the math, we the culture.

Wale on “JUNE 5th / QueenZnGodZ”

Whenever we call out an issue we get told we are “ungrateful”, that it’s “not like it used to be”, or my all-time favorite line: “if you hate America so much, why don’t you leave?”

That is a phrase being thrown around a lot; in fact it was said to me through a twitter DM just the other day. 

You see, without any context the idea of “this place is bad, I’m going to leave” kind of makes sense. It doesn’t apply, however, when you also love the place. 

To me love and hate are the same feeling just with opposite connotations. Both are extremely passionate feelings that bring out strong responses. 

Do I love America? Yes. Do I also hate where we are at as a country? Yes. My so-called “hatred” towards this country doesn’t mean I want to forever “hate” it. My “hatred” towards this country is because it is not living up to the ideals it claims to stand for. 

James Baldwin has a quote that I really like, he says: “I love America more than any other country in the world and exactly for this reason I insist on the right to criticize her.” 

I criticize America so much because I want it to be everything it claims to be. I want to live in an America where for every dollar a white man earns, I also earn a dollar, not 87 cents. I want to live in an America where a white man with an advanced degree doesn’t make $33,681 more annually than a black man with an advanced degree on average. I want to live in an America where a zip-code doesn’t pre-determine your future. I want to live in an America where the president doesn’t openly campaign on segregation. I want to live in an America where everyone is treated equally. 

Right now America isn’t living up to any of those things and I, like millions of others, are intent on holding it accountable. 

Now with the NBA sitting out of playoff games, and the WNBA, MLB, and MLS sitting out of regular season games to take a stand against all of this, they are being told that they are ungrateful or that they hate America. These athletes don’t hate America, nor should they leave the country. They also aren’t exempt from experiencing racism because they make money. So your little “you make millions of dollars, you aren’t oppressed” comments are dumb because 1) like I said five seconds ago, wealth doesn’t mean racism just doesn’t happen to you and 2) even if they haven’t experienced racism first hand, they are standing up for those that have. It’s this magical thing called caring for others, I know it’s a hard concept to grasp.

This goes back to my original question, when will America love us? Because America doesn’t love us, they love being entertained by us. They love what we provide but not the people who are providing it. 

“We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach. I’m so often reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We got to do better. But we got to demand better.”

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers

It feels like America is telling these athletes “yea yea yea, that sucks and all but stop talking about it and dribble a ball.”

Trust me, I want to watch playoff basketball (and regular season basketball and baseball) too, but some things are far more important than sports.

If I could just write about sports, trust me I would. But I am obligated to call these things out and talk about them. Otherwise I would be misusing my platform.

I got a text the other night that said: “I was literally thinking about how that could very easily be you and it would devastate me”.

This fear is not something that’s uncommon. I live with this fear daily, my parents live with this fear, my non-Black friends live with this fear for me, my family, and Black people everywhere.

I’m sick and tired of living with a target on our backs. We just want to be loved unconditionally. Killing us shouldn’t be something that is justified over and over again.

Seeing my people die on camera shouldn’t be a normal occurrence. We shouldn’t be numb to this feeling. Every single time I see these shootings it hurts me deeply, but a good portion of America sees it as just another day.

I’ll say one more thing and I’ll be done (for now).

America, please love us back.

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