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MIT student blogger Ben O. '19

Hope by Ben O. '19

My reflections on the death of Amaud Arbery

I spent the last few days thinking about how I felt about the murder of Amaud Arbery. After seeing the news a few days ago, I quickly went to find who had killed this man, and how they were going to be punished. However, as I did so, something feltoff. I was overcome with a profound sense of deja vu. I had done this before. I had searched a name like this in Google with the same intention, Atatiana Jefferson, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin. At this point I had found a routine. I knew what to do. #runwithmaud spread across the internet like wildfire. Chants of “running shouldn’t be a death sentence,” could be heard even in my quiet quarantined home. Tears, anger, frustration… I had been here before.

A few days later an arrest was made. Two men were peacefully arrested in their homes for murder and aggravated assault of Amaud Arbery. My mind was overcome by the brutal and “rightfully deserved” violence that would ensue had these men been anything but white. I couldn’t shake the idea that days had passed before an arrest was made despite the fact that there was a video showing these men in the act. My blood boiled at fact that if the internet hadn’t picked up this video, these two men may still be at home toasting a couple of cold beers to the fact that they were keeping their community safe. My heart broke as I realized that as we all focus on this murder, there is another happening, and another, and most likely another; while these two men calmly walk into the back of a police van, some cop fist bumps his co-workers after killing a “menace to society.”

As I googled Amaud Arbery’s name I almost threw my laptop across the room because I felt… I shouldn’t have to do this. WHY AM I STILL DOING THIS. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING AGAIN. I AM SO SICK I AM SO SICK AND TIRED I AM SO DONE WITH GOOGLING THESE NAMES! I DON’T WANT TO MAKE ANOTHER HASHTAG AND TALK ABOUT CHANGE AND HOW WE WILL GET BETTER IF WE COME TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY AND FIGHT THE INJUSTICE OF THE WORLD. I HATE HOW THIS IS NORMAL. HOW WE KNOW WHAT TO DO. HOW THIS IS JUST LIFE. HOW I WILL PROBABLY BE DOING THE SAME DAMN THING SOMETIME NEXT YEAR ABOUT SOME KID WHO SHOULDN’T BE DOING SOMETHING OR SOME MOTHER WHO SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. IM SICK OF IT IM SO SICK OF THIS. I HATE IT. I HATE IT SO SO SO MUCH. WHY….. why am I still doing this?

I think a younger me thought Trayvon Martin would be the end of these internet hashtags to save black lives, because it just made sense to me. I thought rational thinking would lead people to the fact that shooting black people/ violence towards black people shouldn’t continue. However, an older and more cynical version of myself has come to realize that this will not change anytime soon. For every death that blows up on the internet there is someone being locked away for 15-30 years for taking a TV from the corner store; for every man exonerated, there are ten people who were forced exhaust their entire savings to make bail after being taken in for “looking suspicious,”; for every black lives matter protest there is a kid who is being moved to the assisted learning classes for disturbing the class by “asking too many questions.” These people will never blow up on the internet, and part of me feels this is how someone wants things to be. Just… get everyone to focus on this one thing….

I am sad that I have become the way I am. Believing that for every good person there is a much more wealthy and powerful bad person. Believing that the “American dream,” was not a beautiful colorful one, but a black and white one with white at the top and black at the bottom. Believing that as much as this murder breaks my heart, I will for sure be in this same position sooner rather than later. I do not want to be this way, but I cannot help but be shaped by my reality. I can no longer sit and “hope for change.” 

Hope is no longer good enough. I cannot look at a black kid and think to myself, you are going to do big things one day, I need to go up to them and tell them, “You.. You are going to change everything.” I cannot sit idle and hope that when I walk into a classroom of young scientists that that room is full of people of color, I need to spend as much time as I can in high schools telling these kids that they are just as capable of everyone else. I cannot hope for prison reform, I need to vote for people who will push for the change that I think is desperately needed. I cannot hope for hope, because the systematic oppression of my people killed that for me.

Nevertheless, I smile when I see my younger siblings push to make their place in the world. I am overcome with joy seeing my little cousins run up to me with their A+, grinning from ear to ear. My heart flies when I see young kids from my high school taking home Fulbright scholarships. I want the best for each and every one of these people in my life. I want the world to be open to them. I want every dream they have to be materialized and for every aspiration to be realized. As broken as the world has become for me, I remember what it was like to look at it in wonder, thinking about all the things I could accomplish. I still see that glimmer in the eyes of those that have not yet been touched by the world. I don’t want that glimmer to die. I know that as much as I want to force change, the world is bigger than I am, and that change is slow. So I will hope… Not for me, but for them.