Botham Shem Jean was murdered in his own home by a law enforcement officer.
The tragedy is not just in the recent occurrence of police murdering an unarmed black person. The tragedy lies in the fact that this is not a surprise, nor is the effort by law enforcement and public officials to assassinate the character of the victim, even though he had done nothing wrong.
The lack of safety while living in black skin in this country goes far beyond physical abuse. Being black in America means you can be murdered by the police in your own home, and the country will ask what you did wrong.
Being black in America means you can be 12 years old and murdered by the police while playing in the park, and your parents will get no justice.
Being black in America means you can share your frustrations, your pain, your hurt, your fear and your tears with your colleagues, and they will say you don’t have any right to feel any of it.
The emotional exhaustion to live day to day, doing everything to ensure you do nothing wrong while trying to build a life for yourself, impacts one’s physical and mental well-being. But African-Americans typically do not discuss these issues because it is seen as weakness, when there are a wide variety of external aggressors working to tear down the strength of black existence.
This has been a systemic issue for centuries, and even when our leaders and communities cry out for justice, they fall on deaf, uncaring ears.
Even those of us who have achieved a measure of success in life can be weighed down by the burden of micro-aggressions. How due to our skin and size we can assume to be at a certain level, or have a certain position, not be recognized by peers, or not be respected by our co-workers.
For me, it is tiring to carry the weight of pain in my heart and on my shoulders.
To smile and laugh or look away to make others feel comfortable around me.
To think of the moments where we may be seconds away from things turning a different way. Where by luck or by fortune the tides turned in our favor, and yet we are still seen as unequal in the eyes of my neighbors and my peers.
To live a life where, were I to be needlessly and senselessly killed, an errant picture or a misunderstood book can characterize me as a radical instead of a professional.
Unfortunately, I do not believe I will ever feel safe in life, and I know that in death there will still not be rest until and unless I live past a certain age. For the next generation, however, there is hope.
Being at Facebook, I am very fortunate to be with a company that has the resources and support to lift up our communities, to train young people, and develop those willing and able to be an influence. We can create opportunities for small businesses to boost their presence. We can coach, inspire, connect and create spaces to lift the voices of the voiceless. We can celebrate our heritage and celebrate our joy.
And because of that, and my relative privilege to be in a position to influence, I still stand.
Too many of us can’t.
And I still speak. Too many of us have no voice.
And I still fight. And cry. And hope for a world where little black boys and girls can play in the park and go home to their families with a smile on their face, and a head full of dreams, committing to do what I can with the platform we have here to make a difference where I can.
Because for Botham, for Trayvon, for Jordan, for Tamir, for Eric, and for so many others, their fight is done. Their families will never be able to hug them again. But there is still an entire generation that doesn’t need to live out their final moments in fear, or face a world awaiting judgment. And my arms are open to them.