A Letter to Ahmaud
“What we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe”– Bell Hooks
Happy 26th Birthday.
I didn’t know you, but I imagine like me you looked forward to your special day; to being surrounded by family and friends; and to feeling the excitement of closing old chapters and starting a new year.
I am sorry, because they keep sharing your last moments. The last time you inhaled and felt concrete under your feet is traveling as if Black death is some type of porn.
I’m sorry, because I can’t watch it. I am too scared and too broken.
I am too scared, because yet again we are reminded of what it means to be Black in a country that does not recognize us as human. In school they taught us to believe that we are all citizens with rights to life and liberty. You had a right to see your 26th birthday, but you were murdered. Murdered by white men who simply saw a Black man running; a Black man taking a moment for clarity of mind, body, and spirit, trying to escape reality for just a few minutes. What we know as fact is that we are not all citizens. Some of us enjoy the taste of freedom and opportunity far more than others. This is about far more than individual police officers, but rather consistent state sanctioned violence against Black bodies. A type of violence exported by state institutions, and defining relationships within larger communities. Two raggedy white men with zero legal authority followed you and decided they had a right to not only interrupt your moment of peace, but also take your life. Though their hands will forever be covered in your blood, it is this country that must carry the guilt of another stolen body.
It is this country whose laws are centered around racial, gendered, and classed exclusions. It is this nation whose existence is tied to racism, heteropatriarchy, and capitalist exploitation. It is this nation that believes one can just walk away from a racist history without confronting the same structures built by whiteness. As if Black people can enjoy freedom in a country still debating the legacy of the confederate flag; a country who places children in cages; terrorizes brown communities; and forces the working class back to work in the midst of a pandemic. It is this country whose wealth and power is so deeply tied to violence that one cannot imagine there ever being peace.
We are not all citizens, rather some of us are constantly being disciplined. We are learning that there are limits to our freedom. It is ingrained in our skin and memory that obeying whiteness is a question of life and death, that as long as we continue to pretend that instances of racism can ever be isolated, Black bodies will continue to fall. This country is all tears and trauma.
I am broken, because today your family will want to hold you. My heart breaks, because the last thing you felt before you passed was pain. A type of pain that is both flesh and spiritual, knowing that you died, because this nation is still too afraid of the truth.
I want you to know that some of us will remember you. Though I cannot promise justice from a failed legal system, I can assure you that your community will remember your name, we will march in protests, donate money, and share resources. Your community will remind this world of the blessing you were to your friends and family; and will push this country just a little further towards transformation.
We must begin to reimagine new futures. Futures that guarantee equality and justice for gendered, raced, and classed bodies. More importantly, these futures must be co-created and co-imagined. We must begin to put theory into practice, so that your death will reverberate around the world.
We must reimagine in order to ensure that our brothers, fathers, and husbands will continue to feel the magic of new birthdays.
Happy Birthday Ahmaud. I am sorry.