The Devil You Know

By Madison Butler

No matter how immersed you are in this work, nothing prepares you for the day that it is someone you know. You are never prepared for the day that the name flashing across your TV screen is a name you have stored in your phone. You are never prepared for when the name in the newspaper is a name that you have said before. 

 

White supremacy is the devil we know and I am still shaken to my core every time I see a headline.

 

I shouldn’t be shocked yet I am always floored.

 

This is everyone’s reality who has lost someone they love to police brutality. Most of us understand the reality of the world we live in but no one is prepared for when that reality is knocking at our own door. There is nothing that could prepare you, and there is nothing that can solve for the pit in your stomach when the face staring back at you is someone you know. 

 

It is not safe to be Black in America. This is not a new sentiment. However, there is something haunting about dissecting  your own mortality while grappling with the guilt of “why them”. 

 

Three weeks ago Fall River police murdered Anthony Harden. He was shot and killed in his own home. There were no firearms present aside from the police officers who fired three rounds into him. 

 

Anthony was funny, bright and a talented artist. Anthony turned 30 in September. He deserved to see 31. He deserved to hold his daughter.

 

He deserved to leave his apartment alive. He deserved better. 

 

Yet, another instance of a Black man who didn’t survive leaving his home. 

 

Another instance where their body cams “happened to be turned off”. 

 

Another instance where a family will be emotionally gutted from the outside in. 

 

Another instance of proof that our lives are valued on a sliding scale. 

 

This incident comes on the heels of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.

 

It is safer to be a white man crossing state lines with a firearm than it is to be a Black man in his home.

 

An interaction with a police officer should not result in death. Walking away from a police officer is not a crime punishable by death. Walking away from the police is not a crime punishable by brutalizing a Black man in front of his young children. Resisting arrest in Massachusetts is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 2 ½ years in jail and a fine of up to $500.

 

Why have we allowed those who have promised to “protect and serve” the ability to be judge, jury and executioner? 

 

However, being Black has always been a crime punishable by death in the eyes of law enforcement.

 

Every time a police officer murders a Black person without repercussion, it empowers the next person to choose violence against us.

 

Every time murderers walk free, it teaches the world that the existence of Black skin is the real crime.

 

Justice is accountability in action. Justice is not having to hold our breaths when we turn on the news or when the phone rings. Justice is the day that our skin is no longer weaponized to defend white supremacy.

 

Justice looks like the day that we don’t live in fear that our greatest gift will be mistaken as a threat.

 

People often avert their eyes when we speak about racism. They don’t want the burden of discomfort. How uncomfortable do you think it is to know making it out of your own home is a feat.

 

We have to keep our hoods down, smile larger, keep our voices down, make sure to look approachable while entering our homes… How uncomfortable do you think we are?

 

We have been screaming, “stop killing us”, and there are people who respond with “…but.”

 

Forget your “pro-life” stance if your value for life stops at the color of our skin. Forget your “patriotism” if you believe that police are judge, jury, and executioner.

 

We will not silence ourselves at the expense of human life in order to keep people complacent in their ability to avert their eyes.

 

As long as we recognize the names on TV, feel the earth move beneath us at the sight of a new hashtag, weep at the death of strangers in the news- we cannot be silent.

 

We are tired of saying “stop killing us” only to be met with “but”. 

 

We are tired of having to defend our lives like they are dissertations on a world stage. 

 

We are tired of having to explain why we deserve to survive interactions with police officers.

 

We are tired of having to explain it over and over again to those who refuse to see us.

 

What a privilege it must be to be able to look away, unbothered, without fear of existing.

 

I hope one day you choose to look that privilege in the eye, without averting your eyes.

 

I hope you choose to look into the eyes of the monster of white supremacy. 

 

I hope you choose to see the fear behind the mother’s eyes who watch their sons leave the house.

 

I hope you see the fear in the eyes of the Black woman who just wants to make it home. 

 

I hope you choose to see how averting your eyes has kept this violence safe.

 

I hope you choose to see our Blackness, and really see it. 

 

Our Blackness is not a weapon, it is art.

 

Art that has been stolen & repurposed to suit the needs of a world not ready to see the magic.

 

Anthony was art.

 

We deserve to be here. Our parents deserve to see us not just survive but thrive. 

 

Anthony deserved to be here. 

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