Black Lives Matter Now: Short Essays by Express Readers on Racial Injustice in America 

We invited East Bay residents to share their thoughts and words. Here's what they had to say.

Page 6 of 7

We as white people like to believe that we can both express our outrage toward police killings of Black bodies, while we continue to partake in all the privileges that have been afforded to us by the very system that perpetrated their murder. We call for the heads of public officials and politicians, all the while sidestepping our own culpability.

We may talk with one another about the injustice, or write about it on our Facebook, or share it on Twitter, but we quickly return to discussing the merits of a particular brew pub that occupies a building that once was a part of Black Broadway, or retire to our homes that are in formally Black neighborhoods. The following morning, we return to our jobs, many of which are supported by a globalized system of power and trade that perpetrates the inequality and violence that plays out in the streets of Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Baltimore, Ferguson, Oakland, and in every corner of America.

We rarely examine our own lives and the small, everyday actions that make us accomplices to the system.

Movements like #BlackLivesMatter will only be truly successful when we as white people begin to take a hard look at all of the manifestations of our privilege and move to change our own lives.

Harper Brokaw-Falbo


The Mythical Institution

American policing has become institutionalized and, like any institution, it has created mythical images, become mired in denial and fought the truth when its power is threatened. Many police agencies are like out-of-control drug addicts, supported by codependent politicians and a judicial system where money plays a key role. "Community Policing" is a tool of the institutions, whereas police living in the communities they serve, sending their children to schools in the community, belonging to churches and community organizations would be true community policing. Legal and political manipulations for special interests instead of the common interest have created much of this problem (and, yes, racists are a special interest). And it will be very difficult to break it down.

Instead of a police fraternity or a "family in blue," we need police that are people like us and not a special "protected" class. In the end, the destruction of the mythical institution of policing will make the streets safer for individual police officers and the public at large. In the final analysis, politicians have created the conditions for this crisis by failing to ensure that all of our citizens have decent livelihoods and full participation in the power of our country.

Jeffrey Gaddy


We Must Remain Relentless

I say that this impacts our community, because these are our brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews who are dying, being locked up, and terrorized by people unwilling to interrupt and examine our personal bias as well as laws and policies that disproportionately harm our family of color.

When my black sister is curled up in a ball for days on end after seeing another video of an unarmed black man murdered by police.

When my black brother is numb and hides out in his house to avoid having to talk to anyone after another white man walks free after murdering a black person.

When my black niece makes videos about the pain of black girls not fitting in and it resonates with millions of cis and trans black women.

When my black nephew rehearses with his parents every day before he leaves the house what to do if he encounters a police officer knowing that it may very well be an exercise in futility…#PhilandoCastille.

When any of my black family and friends have to weather a breaking point again and again and again….and then be expected to show up in service of curious white people (their boss, the person buying coffee in front of them, their landlord) who want to talk about these horrific events from a voyeuristic curiosity and be re-traumatized again and again and again.

I will not be silent while this country does this to my family. Your life matters, black family.

White family, if you see, you are expected to raise your voice and be in action with us. If you don’t see, you are expected to open your eyes. The atrocities we see (when we choose to look) on our own soil by far outweigh the smoke and mirrors our government and media will have you believe about "outside terrorism" coming in. Scared of ISIS? Try being black in any city in America. ISIS is not the priority. The liberation of our family being terrorized right in front of our closed eyes is the priority. Look, listen, learn, engage, stand up… know full well you’d burn the courthouse down if this was your brother or sister. Well, it is. Light the match, family. 

Maureen Benson


Change Your Values

I watched so much crying after the killings of the Dallas law-enforcement officers, and so many who wept spoke of love, the need for love. Love. If this is the value, then change the laws to reflect that! Show your love through well-built and maintained and truly affordable housing, through universal health care, through free public education, through closing income gaps and enormous wage disparity, through clean water and non-GMO foods and through respect for difference, all difference.

It seems the greatest feeling shown at the moment is anger. "Anger is useful to help us clarify our differences, but in the long run, strength that is bred by anger alone is a blind force which cannot create the future," wrote Audre Lorde.

If Black lives are not felt and deeply valued, then what is the future being created right now?

Ellen Sebastian Chang


End America's Legacy of Slavery

My understanding of the relationship between the Black and white Americas begins with the glaring and growing economic inequality in the United States and the denial of what the United Nations deems basic human rights to tens of millions of people. I find it incomprehensible that, in the richest and most powerful nation in world history, with the possible exception of the Roman Empire, we tolerate the poverty, homelessness, hunger, and denial of decent housing, education, and health care so many Americans experience.

Each of these conditions is experienced far disproportionately by our African American neighbors. Blacks have the highest poverty rate at 26.2 percent and non-Hispanic whites the lowest at 10.1 percent. Whites earn 73 percent of bachelor's degrees; Blacks 10 percent. About 33 percent of white Americans hold a bachelor's degree or more; for Blacks the percentage is only 23 percent. African Americans have every reason to be alienated from a society that perpetuates the impacts of slavery 400 years after the first slave ship docked in the American colonies.


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