As 2015 comes to a close, I am trying to process all that has happened this year. The senseless killings by the state and by officers sworn to protect the citizens of the United States. The uprisings. The unanswered questions. The building movement. The young people who refuse to be silenced. The torches being lit by a new civil rights generation, whose leadership is female, queer and from all over this country. However, what I can’t seem to shake right now is the non-indictment of those involved in the death of Sandra Bland.
I can’t seem to wrap my mind around a group of individuals viewing the same footage I saw (and probably more detailed footage), knowing the facts and the timeline surrounding Bland’s arrest and subsequent death (again likely with more facts than I am privy to) and deciding that everything and everyone surrounding the death of Bland operated within the confines of the law. Where does one go to feel safe in one’s own country?
This outcome leads me to the larger question: Is it possible for people of African descent to ever be safe in this country? Race and racism are the foundation and fiber of this nation, but the 21st century version of racism feels different somehow. In most places the signs that read, “Colored Only” have been removed, but in far too many spaces, there are clear indications that no Negroes are allowed—in subdivisions, on playgrounds, in stairwells, on the street, driving a car, walking through a neighborhood not one’s own and the list goes on.
So what am I to make of 2015, a year in which my heart has never ached so deeply. I am going to try to take the lessons of 2015 and move forward with a fighting spirit in 2016. I was reminded that I cannot forget that this war on Blacks in America is not new. I cannot become numb to the harsh realities, but I will use my tools wisely to dismantle this system. I will start with my ballot, in the primary and general elections next year. I’ll also use my “pocket change” to support grassroots organizations that are doing the daily work to support young people and fight injustice. I’ll also remember my community. We haven’t made it this far alone, and we will only dismantle this system together.
Christina M. Greer, Ph.D. is an associate professor of political science at Fordham University. Find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.