Commentary: Do you understand what it feels like to be me, to be Black?
This is an open letter to the faculty at UC Irvine. I am currently a third-year Black student now majoring in economics at UCI.
Do you know what it feels like to be Black? Do you understand what it feels like to be at a stoplight and be called a Black bitch by a police officer for no reason?
Do you understand the fear that comes with having teenage brothers and wondering every time they go out with friends if they possibly encounter a racist officer and be harassed?
Do you understand the fear that comes with being pulled over by a cop and not knowing if this could be your last day on Earth, depending on whether that officer feels “threatened” by the mere color of your skin?
Do you understand what it feels like to see another Black person being killed senselessly by a police officer time after time, the same police officers who are there to serve and protect?
Do you understand what it feels like to see this and hope and pray that this doesn’t happen to your family member when they step outside their home or decide to go for a jog?
Do you understand what it feels like when a white woman grips her purse closer to her body as you walk by in fear of you? Do you understand what it feels like to be looked at in shock when you say what university you attend as if a Black person getting into a good university is so unheard of?
Do you understand what it feels like to be me, to be Black?
I find myself wanting to go out to protest but wondering if I will still be able to study to pass finals. In a time where we are fighting a pandemic, unemployment and an oppressive system, even when I want to, it is hard to get my mind to settle down and just focus on school.
I am a student but I am also a Black woman, unemployed, fighting a pandemic and fighting a system that was never made for me.
So this leaves me stuck between trying to be a role model for my Black brothers and sisters, showing them that we, as Black people, are capable of obtaining a degree and going out to fight and stand by my fellow black peers to use our voice to fight the very system that has continuously silenced our voice.
I am fighting back and although knowledge and a degree can bring power needed to go further, what is that knowledge if we are not alive to use it?
I am asking for your assistance as faculty on my campus and on campuses across the globe. Please participate in fighting a flawed system. We are not asking to be better than anyone else, not asking to be higher than anyone else but simply to be seen, heard, valued, respected and to stop being killed.
The writer studies economics at UC Irvine.