By Landry Barbour
I was riding in the car with my parents when a news story came on the radio about Stephen Clark, the 20-year old Black man who was shot and killed by two white police officers in Sacramento, California. According to the man on the radio, the police officers thought Stephon had a gun, but all he had was an iPhone.
I have an iPhone.
So I asked my parents why do white police officers keep killing Black males? I couldn’t understand because in my mind people are people. It shouldn’t matter what color you are.
I play basketball and on my team we have a white kid, a biracial kid, and Black kids. I have never looked at any of them and said I can’t be friends with you because you’re different than I am. Actually, I don’t see any difference. We’re all males who like basketball and enjoy learning in school. Just because we aren’t the same skin color does not mean that we are so different that we have to hate or kill each other does it? If so, I don’t want to be a part of a world that thinks like that. My parents say it’s important that my brother and I are friends with a diverse group of people; however, it’s also important that we understand our heritage and how hard people fought to ensure we have the opportunities that my brother and I have.
They remind us that our grandfather couldn’t play on a basketball team with white kids because he had to go to the all-Black high school where the school was raggedy and the conditions were poor. My grandfather told me about his younger brother who was hit by a car driven by a white woman when his brother was five years old. My uncle died and the white woman called my great-grandmother and said “I’m sorry to hear about your son, but at least that’s one less nigger we have to worry about.”
I overheard a kid calling himself nigger just the other day. I don’t know why that hasn’t changed.
My grandmother takes me and my brother to the movies all the time. She told me that when she was our age, they had to sit in the balcony of the movie theatre because that was the Blacks-only section. I don’t want to sit in the balcony. I think it would be hard to see from up there. I enjoy the movie theaters with the reclining seats and nachos to eat. I guess this is yet another thing that we should be thankful for.
I went to the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina recently. My mother wouldn’t let my brother stay for the part on lynchings because he’s only 7, but I stayed. And I saw. And I learned. Emmitt Till was my age when he was murdered. He was burned. I saw the picture. It made me angry. I was happy that the next section of the tour was about Brown v. the Board of Education. We learned about segregation of schools and how Black schools were far less than white schools. I saw my mom look at me while we were watching a film on it all. I knew what she was thinking. I should be thankful for the educational opportunities that I have. I am. Really I am. But I feel sorry for those who don’t have these opportunities. They are people too. Shouldn’t they have access to the same things I have access to?
I told my mom I want to go to a Black Lives Matter march one day. I want to be a part of the change in this world. I believe that I was created to make a difference and I will. My mom tells me everyday “a bird doesn’t have to ask permission to fly. It flies because it can. You don’t have to ask for permission to be smart. Be smart because you are able.” I don’t want to have to ask for permission to be free or safe. I want to be because I can and I’m a person too.