Will My People Ever Truly Be Free?

I feel too young to have run out of tears. I can’t have already given up on the idea that I will ever see my people truly be free.

Tonight, I find myself scrolling through posts on social media, hoping that something of the raw rage, grief, and agony that everyone is expressing will pour out on me. I feel like I’m in need of that energy, that deep, heavy, thick coating of pure outrage.

I need to mourn for Michael Brown, and Akai Gurley, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice and 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, and everyone we’ve seen killed by police or failed by this justice system since the day Darren Wilson took a young man’s life.

Once, when I was young, I saw a video of women wailing in grief after an earthquake in Turkey. The sound was haunting and loud, filled with loss and despair and unrelenting madness that threatens to swallow you whole.

That’s what I need right now. Like oil, like an anointing, flowing over my head and down my neck, I need anguish to manifest as more than a poison, a bile in my throat that I can’t get down.

There is no justice for Michael Brown. There is no justice for any of us. You can’t fix a system that’s working exactly as it’s supposed to work.

I am spent. The weight of these names—these people I’ve mourned in my three decades on this planet—makes me feel worn and numb. Amadou. Patrick. Trayvon. Sean. Aiyana. Tarika. Rekia. Trayvon. Abner. Oscar.


There’s too many. Always too many. And I feel too young to have run out of tears. I can’t have already given up on the idea that I will ever see my people truly be free. That I won’t constantly live in fear that I might lose my brother or the man I love because a police officer chose, on a whim, to take his life. I’m afraid I might lose my mind.

All the time, I worry that my mind will break.

As I think about history, I am reminded that slavemasters were never much moved by pleas to their humanity (or ours). But they feared rebellion. I understand that this is why people in power keep asking for people in Ferguson to behave, to be peaceful and non-violent, and why these messages keep being repeated in the media they own. Because those in power are not peaceful. Because they are violent. Because they are cruel and hateful. And because they know every empire before this one has fallen and this one will, too.

I still can’t feel much tonight. But the sadness, pain, and passion I see from everyone else so hurt by this verdict encourages me. I am grateful that we are all not so numb. That we have not all given up. There was a time, not so long ago, when enslaved people in America dreamed of freedom, though everything and everyone told them it would never come.

But freedom came. And I know justice is on its way.

Khadijah Costley White is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Find her on Twitter here.

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