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The feelings of pain, and then exhaustion, did not have time to settle before I was forced to add another name to my list. I hadn’t even finished this article when I learned Philando Castile was shot after being pulled over for a busted tail-light. Although I knew it would hurt like hell, I watched the video. And it did hurt. I hurt for the child in the car. I hurt for Castile’s girlfriend,who prayed that he wasn’t dead, hoping his life would not end as another innocent black man, brutalized.
Where does the pain come from? Every time I see another hashtag, another death, the pain is still jarring as ever, and it isn’t simply because I’m empathetic. All my empathy should have run out by now. The pain is stemmed in fear. It is realizing that while the focus has been on the fact that black men are far likelier to be killed by police than white men, I cannot feel safe as a Latino man because my place in this country is in so many ways the same as my black brothers and sisters.
The Latinx community’s relationship with the police is different than that of the black community, but it is still riddled with parallel injustices. Racial profiling of Latino drivers happens in similar ways to that of black drivers. The killing of innocent Latino men at the hands of police officers is a very real part of our American reality. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor wrote this equation in a recent dissent, saying that “black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’ — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.”
We have different histories, and our black and brown bodies move through the world differently, but there is much more that connects us than divides us. Solidarity feels natural because it is our black and brown bodies, saturated with the dark melanin of our ancestors, that are buried in the soil as nutrients for the plants and riches of this country.
It’s not just in the relationship with the police where I feel the weight of white supremacy weighing down on me like it does on my black peers. We feel it everywhere. It rears an ugly head when Latina women and black women are both hyper-sexualized in media, or cast into one-dimensional stereotypes. We see it when we don’t get jobs because our names are too ethnic or not white enough. It hits closest to home when I write an article about race, and the most thoughtful messages of support come equally from black and brown classmates who “get” what I’m writing.
The often overlapping shades of our skin bring us together, and this is the same overlap that fosters the pain when I see the death of another black man or woman at the hands of a police officer. While I do not see myself directly reflected in their images, I can see the similarities that join us. It’s like looking into the glossy surface of a dirty car and realizing that the warped blobs of color are me, and that all those dead black men represent what it means to be a man of color in 2016.
In the end, this issue is not about me, even with the immense pain I feel. My own community is plagued by the anti-blackness that brings about systemic violence against black Americans. Solidarity, and a promise to fight the racism I’ve been taught since birth, are what I offer after all the numbing pain has finished its work within me. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are not the last two names that will shoot pain through my core. Black lives matter, and until people begin to realize that, I will stand by you to form a resilient, indestructible wall of black and brown bodies.
Ruben E. Reyes Jr. ’19, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Leverett House. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.
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