Safeeyah Iverson

To Whom It May Concern,

To be blunt (because the time for propriety is long over), I am what a lot of you consider (and have said as much to my face) a different kind of black. I am what you are comfortable with. I represent what you think black people should be. I am the so-called difference between a black person and a nigger. But I am an adaptation. I am what my parents raised me to be so that I could survive in this country. And yet, when I see a police officer approaching me, I always hold my breath. My blood runs cold, and I am made overwhelmingly and terrifyingly aware of the color of my skin and of the fact that nothing, not my parents’ law degrees, not my NYU education, not the “proper” way I speak, not my legal rights as an American citizen, will act as a shield for me in this moment. That my life is at the mercy of another, as it has been since the day my people were brought to this country in chains. That if I should die from this encounter, I will just be another dead black girl on the news. And as terrified as I always am, there sits always in my chest, rage. Rage that I am made to constantly feel this way, that 400 years of oppression are not enough, that the pain and suffering of my people are eternal. Rage that everything I am feeling will be trivialized by someone who has never known my experience.

I cry for George Floyd as I have cried for the millions that have come before him, for all the black and brown lives lost because of the racism in this country. The system is not broken. It is what it was always designed to be. The police are not and have never been here to protect us all equally. That is not an opinion, it is a fact. And if you disagree, I urge you to educate yourself because the odds are you are holding the means of doing so in your hands right now. Understand that if you refer to us as savages because we riot, it is nothing new, we have always known you thought of us this way. And that is why we are rioting. Because we have been peacefully protesting for centuries and it has meant nothing, gained us nothing, not when we are still being choked, beaten, shot, and lynched. Understand also that this violence is nothing new to us. To be Black in America is to always be aware that you are Black in America. That in so many ways you are less protected, vilified, denigrated, disrespected, and opposed. That your life does not matter in the same way as a white person. And if you disagree, if you think we are equal, that we exaggerate and imagine the world to be against us, answer this: Would you want to be Black in America?

We riot because we are afraid, because we are angry, because we are anguished, and because we are dying. And if you refuse to understand that, if property and wealth mean more to you than the lives of black and brown people, then we are rioting because of you.

A Black American