Black Lives Matter was founded in 2012 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. It was founded to combat systemic oppression on the outside and within. We see how black and brown people are treated in the world, but we also notice the heteronormativity, patriarchy and non-acceptance of disabled person(s) that we need to fix within our own community. It goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within black communities, which merely call on black people to love black, live black and buy black, keeping straight cis black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all. Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the black liberation movement.
The outrage within our community here at Oklahoma State stems from the fact that a good portion of our students and some staff come from Tulsa and have family and friends there. It feels as if we hear about another member of our community falling to police brutality every time we turn around. We stand in solidarity with our community and try to rebuild and start again. It hurts, but we have to keep moving because if we spend too much time dwelling on an incident, then our white friends tell us to, “Forget about it,” or “If they were doing what they were told, then they would get to go home to their families.” But it’s different this time. This time it happen in our backyard. We all really sat and thought, “This could have been me. This could have been my brother, my uncle, my dad,” faculty, staff and student alike. It’s crazy to think that one day it might be you on the other side of a gun wielded by a poorly trained police officer.
We think that one of the top questions that is being asked is, “Why is it that we see people fight police and commit heinous crimes, but law enforcement is still able to detain people and bring them in with their lives intact?” This is what has the community’s head reeling. It’s the problem that we are fighting to address, and quite frankly, we are tired. The hearts of the African-American community at OSU are heavy as we mourn this tragedy. The weight of this tragedy feels as if we have lost more than one individual life. Any lack of empathy and compassion must come to an end. A sufficient supporting foundation encompasses listening ears, sympathy and the endless fight for justice. We encourage the non-minority community to not be silent throughout these tragedies because that is exactly what it is for us, a tragedy accompanied by trauma and grief. We ask for you to not be bystanders while encouraging you to seek more sources of information on what is being fought for, beyond today’s media and news. We believe that the non-minority community should not only engage with the African-American community, but also build relationships with colleagues of all minority races. We want to know and have the assurance that we have allies in other communities.
The vigil we held Sunday night is not for you to gawk at and tell us why cops should or shouldn’t be policed. This is about us helping rebuild our community after the loss of, yet another, family member. It was a place where we could come together and not have to worry about making ourselves smaller to make others comfortable. It was a place where we could embrace our feelings of rage and sorrow, fear and power, love and frustration. It was a place for us to be, well, us.