Photo by EPA | Words by Jazmin Zayuri Gonzalez
To protect and to serve… or some variation thereof. That’s what police departments across our nation claim as their motto, as their promise to the people. But cell phone cameras across the nation have offered us a wake-up call. Exposing the hidden disclaimer this promise has had all along: excluding, in fine print, our people from that pact.
For the past 9+ months, I have been waking up from a nightmare that doesn’t end when I open my eyes. I’m petrified because the uniformed men that are supposed to ‘protect and serve’ are brutally murdering people of color without consequence, daily. There’s a viral video being shared of an officer of the law viciously murdering a black man for existing. It is 2016 and I bet you find the need to ask which one?
In a world where violence is the new normal, the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement is imperative. The silver lining in recent tragedies is that it creates dialog, it allows us to address a problem that we have been attempting to combat before videos could go viral. What too many people do not understand is that ‘Black Lives Matter’ does not mean YOURS does not. Black folks are demanding the equality that they still do not have, but that does not impede us as brown folks from fighting for the same.
My father went missing in October of 2015. When I found out I tried to remain calm and collected, but deep down I feared the worst. He traveled to Texas for work, but never arrived at his destination. With said situation at bay all I wanted to do was cry, but what I needed to do was to find my father. I channeled the strength he taught me and exhausted all resources to find him. I filed a missing person report while my mother and sister wept uncontrollably behind me. I plastered his image throughout the city and all my social media platforms. I even had a family friend drive to Texas just to post flyers along various routes. I called every hospital, jail, and morgue, from California to Texas to no avail. I called ICE and they too told me he was not in their custody.
Days after our search ensued, the Mexican consulate was the one to inform us of his whereabouts. My father had been detained in Texas on an ‘ICE hold’. I was so happy to hear that they found him alive that I honestly did not care about the circumstances at first, but that was short lived. Nearly 10 months later, my father still has not had his day in court.
I used to call daily for updates until an officer told me that the more I called the longer they would take to schedule his trial. I remember asking, “whatever happened to the right to a speedy trial?” He laughed, burped and said ‘Those rights apply to American citizens.” and hung up.
I could write an infinite amount of eloquently written letters to individuals in positions of power, but my hands are tied behind my back. They have the upper hand. One wrong move and my father’s life could be snatched away. My brown father CAN become the next hashtag.
In this country you are innocent until proven guilty… if you’re white. My father has been dealt unjust cards. I worry not about speaking of his innocence, but rather about keeping him alive. I pray that the guards that handle him day in and day out are not in a bad mood. I hope that he fights the urge to fight back in the phase of blatant disrespect and dehumanizing conditions. I wish he wasn’t sleeping with the enemy.
I want this rigged system to start looking at our black and brown bodies as human beings because it is evident that they still do not. More importantly, I want us to realize we are fighting different battles in the same war and become real allies once and for all. In the words of Bobby Seale, “We are not outnumbered, we are out-organized”. Together we are not ‘minorities’, together we become the majority that can and must demand real justice and equality once and for all.
Jazmin is a writer and entrepreneur from South Central Los Angeles, where hunger and oppression prevail. In hopes of creating a dent in world hunger she has recently launched #FeedSouthCentral a communal effort to feed the homeless residing in the streets of her neighborhood.