How Can I Make an Impact?

Anger and angst — these are the emotions that I have been cycling through. Both leaving me crippled with overwhelming fear.

It’s taken me a while to be able to speak on the incidents of police brutality that have been unveiled over the last few weeks. One reason being because just as I begin to process an event and put my words down, another incident comes to light, leaving me at a loss for words again. This has become traumatizing — constantly watching the modern-day genocide of black men through police brutality. And it has been equally exhausting trying to convince people that this problem exists.

It feels as though there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said. If you don’t already know by now that black lives matter then will throwing a hashtag on it really make you change your mind? Is retweeting quotes of Jesse Williams’ speech actually educating the people who need it the most? Does anyone hear me? Does my voice really matter? How can I make an impact?

Because I’ve spoken up but it still feels as though the only people who hear me are like-minded individuals who are caught in a similar system of oppression. We cycle the same messages amongst each other but it’s like those on the outside just scroll right past us or comment “I get that black lives matter but…” Black people can’t bear the responsibility of ending racism in America. There’s really only so much we can possibly do.

I remember interning at a local news station on February 27th, 2012 when I saw the image of Trayvon Martin plastered on every TV screen. I remember marching through downtown Austin while recording a podcast so people could understand how Trayvon’s death and legacy affected us in Austin. Determined, I stayed up all night creating the podcast to share with anyone I could. I had faith that the power of social media would overpower traditional media and be a solution to end these occurrences. In my mind I thought, this has to be the last straw. There’s no way Zimmerman’s getting away with this….

But he did. And then it happened again. And again and again and again. And then from there it kept spiraling to the point that I saw no end in sight. I remember scrolling through Twitter on August 9, 2014 when I saw pictures of Michael Brown’s body lying in the street for hours as he bled out, in front of neighbors and children, only be dumped in the back of someone’s car. This eventually escalated to what we know as #Ferguson. As a nation we watched, shocked and appalled as militarized law enforcement abused the rights of journalists and Ferguson citizens who were justifiably angry at the lack of justice. I tweeted, I ranted, I wanted to make sure EVERYONE saw and acknowledged the lack of justice that plagued black communities in America. This has to be the last straw. There’s absolutely no way they can get away with treating people like this….

But the policeman who shot Michael Brown got away with it. Then I saw Eric Garner’s murder. I watched a cop use an illegal chokehold technique against a man who was obviously nonviolent. We all saw the entire confrontation and murder from start to finish on video. At least it was all recorded, I naively thought. There was nothing left to be decided. There were no ifs, ands or buts; not even a maybe. This cop was in the wrong for murdering an innocent human being. We’ve cornered him, we’ve got all the video evidence! There’s no way he will get away with this…

On December 3, 2014 I was working on Capitol Hill when the entire press office gasped when we saw “NO INDICTMENT” run across the every TV screen on every major station.

That’s when the helplessness sunk in. It didn’t matter that there was video evidence, or that the nation was up in arms, or that a black man was in the White House–we weren’t going to get justice. They could so easily kill us, weasel out of any repercussions, and then end up profiting from a GoFundMe campaign. And that’s when I became numb.

I’m not saying that my response was right but that was my last straw. I didn’t know how to combat this issue anymore.

Obviously there have been hundreds of similar incidents before, between and since these: the Texas teen pool party of 2015, Sandra Bland, 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, I COULD GO ON FOREVER. It was the death of Alton Stirling that stirred me up again. I saw the hashtag trending and thought, Here we go again. Another cycle of murder, ignored video evidence, cop gets off, ends up with some sort of monetary gain. The video pained my soul and I didn’t even watch it all the way through as I found myself sobbing.

Just as we were mourning the traumatic death of Alton Stirling LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER we witnessed, live, Philandro Castille murdered in front of his 4 year old daughter and girlfriend during a traffic stop. Since I started writing this post a week ago, I’ve seen at least three more videos of police stepping out of line attacking black people in Miami, Austin and Louisiana.

Anger, angst and fear.

It’s not possible to be numb anymore. I have to say something  for the slightest, tiniest, most minuscule chance that my thoughts and expressions could progress change. Standing in support of black Americans is often considered “controversial” and frowned upon in this country but I refuse to shy away.

At this moment I’m still spinning my wheels trying to strategize how I can best work to improve the racial climate of our country. If you’re ever feeling powerless about any issue, as I often have, I’ve provided a link to an article that provides 26 ways you can contribute to ending violence and injustice that you may have not have already thought of. A few that I’d like to add are:

  1. Make sure you’re registered to vote.
  2. Make sure you actually vote. Yes, there’s the presidential election but also keep in mind that88% of Congress is up for re-election this year.
  3. Pray/meditate/speak to whatever higher being you may believe in. Take care of your mental and spiritual health.

There’s so much more to be said but for now, be safe.

– Cathryn

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