|In light of the recent events in New York, my original outrage at the injustices in Ferguson has turned into outright fear. Once again, with the failures to indict Officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, due process has not been served. As a young black Pennsylvanian, I have been keenly aware that the cases of murdered people of color routinely remain unprosecuted, unsolved, and uninvestigated. There is a profound sting of inhumanity when the murders are by the hands of our own law enforcement officials who are inevitably never brought to trial to answer for their actions. Now, I am not only angry and disheartened by the continuing injustice overwhelming our country, but I am afraid for my personal safety.|
The countless murders of black and brown people in America whose deaths are not investigated or are grossly mishandled has me feeling furious and hopeless. I am beginning to feel that my very existence is now considered a threat to the American justice system. I could be out “too late at night” or get stopped for being “suspicious,” and be mistakenly murdered by a cop. There are too many possible scenarios. I could easily be subjected to any form of physical violence by the police because I just happened to find myself caught in one of these situations, and not a drop of justice would be served.
Eric Garner’s murder by a police officer was caught entirely on video, and yet, his murderer still walks away free. This forces me to question: Just how safe am I in New York, in Pennsylvania, or in the United States? Will I be safe from police violence when I visit our LGBTQ youth leaders in the Pennsylvania heartland? I still hear racial slurs at every turn within the LGBTQ community in Pittsburgh alone. In Philadelphia, where scores of trans women of color have been murdered without justice, including Nizah Morris, Stacey Blahnik, Erica Keel, and Kyra Cordova, can I really delude myself to believe that members of the LGBTQ community are safe in Philadelphia? What makes me so different, so less likely to be targeted? I ask you, Governor-elect Tom Wolf, Mayors Bill Peduto and Michael Nutter, what will you do to prevent these events from happening in Pennsylvania? What measures will you take to keep all Pennsylvanians safe?
As a society, we must come to acknowledge that institutional racism (i.e. the school-to-prison pipeline), white privilege, and the constant, insidious degradation of black lives in our country are our real enemies. There are many white Americans who want to do the right thing and are incensed with the recent decisions our justice system has made. I am extremely thankful for their solidarity with people of color in this struggle. However, each person in our nation that benefits from whiteness – the systems that praise white people while oppressing non-white people – must openly accept their role in perpetuating racism and understand how they are not subjected to the harsh implications and negative consequences that racially discriminating cultures create. Once those who participate in racist structures admit that there is clearly a problem in our legal system and its treatment of individuals of different races, we can finally work together to identify concrete solutions and build a democracy that is fair and just to all.
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, we are outraged at the recent non-indictment decisions and the continued racial inequities that pervade our justice system. We march in solidarity with the thousands of people in our country calling for increased accountability in investigating and prosecuting murders of unarmed civilians by the police. We call on LGBTQ student organizations throughout Pennsylvania to be meaningful partners in the movement toward social justice. We are all responsible for addressing the failures of our legal system. No member of our society, and certainly not members of continually persecuted minorities, should remove themselves from this work. Our issues, bodies, and lived experiences are intersectional across race, class, and much more.
After surveying all of the publicly accessible social media of college LGBTQ student organizations in Pennsylvania, we have found that not one of those groups has yet posted news or statements regarding the issues related to Michael Brown or Eric Garner. For those who may consider protests to not be a viable expression of frustration at this time, I implore you to think about the Stonewall Riots that catapulted the LGBTQ rights movement into an organized mass-existence. We must empower our networks to freely express these raw emotions and transform them into tangible actions toward social and legal reform. Ending racial profiling and systematic discrimination requires the dedication and support of the entire LGBTQ community.
I believe in the PSEC community’s approach of how we must come through this struggle from a place of unwavering love. In the tradition of the Civil Rights Movement, we understand that we must drive out the darkness of racism through light. Our righteous outrage that takes root in our souls should rise up through our commitment to love – the love for our fellow human beings no matter who they are. Love is what will help us overcome the systems of institutional and societal racism that exist in our society.