opinion

OPINION: In tough times, reflection can help us make sense of tragedy



illo

As a young girl I always had a pencil and paper handy — and was ready to use it. 

One day I would write a five-page dissertation to my parents on why I should be able to go to the homecoming game as a sixth grader. The next I would angrily write a diary entry about how it was a complete injustice that girls couldn’t wear tank tops to school.

Even now I keep a journal handy for any time I have a lot on my mind, which is pretty frequently, honestly.

But as I got older and my social awareness evolved, my topics of choice became more thoughtful than elementary school crushes and why the school ban of Silly Bandz was infuriating.

Recently, as I watched the news on the murder of Atatiana Jefferson, I was crushed. But it made me realize there will always be these stories to tell about black people in America.

Writing about deep, critical societal issues is not easy, but it is always worth it. While it can be upsetting, it is important to bring these difficult topics to light. 

I thoroughly remember the hot summer day in 2013 when George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. I was at my neighbor’s house with my naïve yet curious eyes glued to the television. When the “not guilty” verdict was announced, I felt confused and crushed. 

As a seventh grader who was just trying to get a grasp on algebra, I did not understand the court system. I did not fully understand the systemic structure of racism in America. But I knew this verdict mattered.

And it pissed me off.

A few years later I had a similar experience in regard to the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina that left nine dead. About a week after the devastating, heinous massacre I was in a hotel room somewhere between Indiana and Florida on my way to volleyball AAU nationals.

While watching the news on the victim’s lives my heart broke. A coach, a grandmother, a legislator, an 87-year-old who sang in the choir were all murdered by a white supremacist.

I looked into my mother’s eyes, as mine began to fill up with tears. I started sobbing as she wrapped her arms around me. Although I was a maturing teenager I felt like a young child who just needed the warmth of her mother. 

My heart could not fathom, and my head could not comprehend the hate.  

I used to want to be a pop star because my Britney Spears performances were spot on. I used to want to be an architect because I loved to draw. I wanted to be a vet because I am a little too obsessed with dogs.

But that was the moment I knew these things that broke my heart were the very things I have been called to live for.

For a while I did not accept it and tried to force a conventional, safe and easier path into my mind.

But who likes easy anyways?

Being a biracial woman studying journalism at a predominantly white institution, I consistently bring a voice to the underrepresented. I am passionate about civil rights and social injustices and that shows through my writing. I acquire great joy through bringing often ignored topics to light — specifically living in a town and campus with minimal diversity.

I am not majoring in journalism to study AP style constantly, or to have my face all over television.

As much as I love to dive into topics such as police brutality, the justice system and why America is so broken, it can be incredibly draining. One day last school year I was working on a story about a black man who was sleeping in his car when he was shot multiple times by police.

As I was writing it, I became overwhelmingly anxious. I began to feel uneasy and sick to my stomach.

My heart broke for him. My heart broke for his family. My heart continues to break for black people in America. I find satisfaction in talking about issues pertaining to people of color.

Although it may be difficult and emotionally tasking, we must give these instances coverage and attention. It is important that people continue to talk about the incredibly frustrating situations surrounding racism in America. Despite the unfortunate recurring pattern of crimes against black people, each story is valid and deserves attention.

My heart breaks because I will never run out of heartbreaking stories to write.

But that little girl with a pencil and paper in hand will never stop writing. 

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