The images I can’t forget: Part Two

When Eric Garner’s wife, Esaw, was asked if she would forgive the cops who killed her husband, her response was “Hell no.”

I looked up unsure If I had her correctly, but she continued.

“The time for remorse would’ve been the time when my husband was begging to breathe… when he was screaming 11 times that he couldn’t breathe. So there is nothing that him or his prayers or anything else would make me feel any different. No, I don’t accept his apology. No, I could care less about his condolences. No, I could care less. He’s still working, he’s still getting a paycheck, he’s still feeding his kids, and my husband is six feet under, and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now. Who’s going to play Santa Claus for my grandkids this year? Cause he played Santa Claus for my grandkids — who’s going to do that now?

I wanted to hug her and scream in affirmation. I wanted to hold her hand. I wanted to punch a wall. Instead, I cried. The expectation is that we as people of color are expected to forgive and forget. That with each stab wound we are supposed to put a band-aid on and pretend we aren’t still bleeding. We don’t get to grieve or process. We get to forgive, we get to ignore, we get the blame. We get to huddle up in corners and weep while trying to be silent so that we don’t upset the power structure. But I am not crying any more tears. I’m going to do something about it.

Audre Lorde has a quote about the master’s tools not being able to dismantle the master’s house. She was right. In a broad sense, I think that capitalism is a system that needs to have inequality and oppression for it to function, but in a more focused sense, we have to start paying attention. Who is your senator? Your house rep? Who sits on your school board? Your city council? What do your police officers look like? Who are your judges (both elected and appointed?) Do they look like you? Do they represent your views? Do they truly understand the needs of the entire community? Or do they represent the needs of only one neighborhood, one race, one gender? Last week I had the ultimate privilege of attending a Young People For (YP4) Regional Training and Vote Summit. I met incredible people with inspiring stories and doing incredible work on all kinds of social issues—everything from Racial Justice and Prison Abolition to Environmental Issues and Women’s Rights. Over the next year, I’ll be working on a Social Justice Blueprint that addresses the achievement gap between minority students and their peers. But I’ll also be doing vote work. In order to make a difference, we have to vote. We have to call candidates with our concerns. We have to demand that they hear us. If you don’t vote, you abandon your right to complain. If being heard means showing up to rallies and protests, do that. But it is more than just the visuals. You have to be willing to do the work behind the scenes. Over the next 2 years, I’ll be doing everything can to get people to participate in not only elections, but in government. Let’s work to make sure that we see the right names on the ballot. Names of people that will listen to us, work with us, and fight for us.

Yours in activism,

Karli Janay

As always, share this with everyone you know and let me hear your thoughts!

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