Sometimes, I don’t even feel qualified enough to talk about Black experiences. I am reminded every day that I have privilege—not only because of my citizenship, but also because of my light skin color. Though I have not experienced all the things that my darker-skinned brothers and sisters have, I know what it feels like to see yet another Black man be murdered at the hands of those that are called to protect and serve, and thinking, “That could be my dad, my brother, my nephew, or my husband one day.”
I have had the great privilege of growing up in a Black family, going to schools with people of different races and ethnicities, and working for an organization that has been in the Rio Grande community of El Paso, TX for 16 years, walking alongside families holistically and incarnationally. I have the pleasure of working with high school students (mostly Hispanic), learners, practitioners from around the world, and beautiful migrants, most recently from Africa. This work in and of itself is difficult. It’s especially challenging for me to not be from El Paso, to not be Hispanic and to not look African American to work in these different spaces. It’s challenging to be in a predominantly Hispanic community, working so far from my home state of Virginia where I could be helping my own people.
The past few weeks since George Floyd’s death, I’ve watched the news every day. I’ve seen countless videos of Black men and women being abused and murdered by police, and I am tired. I’m tired of looking at comments online about how “Maybe he shouldn’t have grabbed the taser,” or “Maybe he would still be alive if he didn’t write a bad check,” or “I didn’t own slaves, so I shouldn’t have to deal with all of this.” I’m tired of defending something that we should not have to defend in 2020. Black people should have rights, Black people should feel safe, and Black people should be seen equally as human as non-Blacks!
My favorite quote is by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which says, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Every business, every organization, and every entity should stand behind Black people, because Black lives DO matter. Do our lives not matter as much as our business or our service? Do our lives not matter as much as others? I am blessed to work for a nonprofit that reminds me every day that my life matters; An organization that not only accepts me as a Black woman, but affirms, protects and cares for Black people. Not just now, but every day.
Working with migrants from Africa has been both humbling and heartbreaking. Humbling because they speak so highly of their homes. Their culture is beautiful. It is a pleasure to gain a glimpse of Africa through them, to understand where my own people came from—granted, in ways I wish could have been different. However, it is a glimpse of home for many of the African diaspora. It’s heartbreaking, because they leave comfort, family, and everything they have ever known to travel days, weeks and months to a foreign land. Heartbreaking, because they’re fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland to come to a foreign land, where they also must flee violence and persecution. Not because of their religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, political opinion but because of the color of their skin.
These migrants from Africa have waited for months to start a process that no one is really sure what the outcome will be. They come to a country that should be safe for everyone; but for a certain group of people, it is not safe. And naturally, they are a part of that group simply because they have black skin. They come to this country searching for opportunities that aren’t even available to African-American people that are already established on this land. This country, that is advanced in technology, medicine, manufacturing, but not in its systems for Black people—not its thoughts of Black people and not its understanding of racial injustice. We started this battle not too long ago, and have a long way to go, but we will not lose momentum!
At this very moment, Black bodies are being neglected and murdered. Whether those bodies are African American, or African, Black bodies are being murdered. While all lives do matter, we need to understand that at the end of the day, a police uniform can be taken off. The body underneath can be whatever it would like to be, safely. However, Black bodies cannot take off their black skin. And their black skin is NOT worth death because it is black.
As an organization, we defend, love and care for these Black bodies.
By: Keisha Branch