Entitled, “We Are Living An American Horror Story,” this open letter from Ferguson protesters and allies reflects on the past 70 days of protest and the movement that has begun.
The unlawful slaughter of black bodies by the hands of power has continued day after day, year after year, century after century, life by precious life, since before the first chain was slipped around black wrists. Black youth, brimming with untapped potential, but seen as worthless and unimportant. Black activists, stalwart in pursuit of liberation, but perceived as perpetual threats to order and comfort. Black men, truly and earnestly clinging to our dignity, written off as the ravenous, insatiable black savage. Black women, always unflinchingly running toward our freedom, dismissed as bitter and angry after long denial and suffering.
Not one group of us has been spared from the bullet or the beating, too many armed only with our Blackness, left to live this American Horror Story.
The story has come alive once again in Ferguson. Ours were the bodies, the strange fruit that swung from the poplar trees. Ours were the bodies, the motionless forms stretched out in the street for 4.5 hours. Ours were the bodies, left to be seen to rot as warnings against being too uppity, too confident, too bold, too free.
Ours were the bodies, served up as notice to remain humbly and quietly in our place, never to awaken America’s fear of Blackness.
It was Emmett’s body in Mississippi. Little Aiyana’s body in Michigan.
Amadou’s body in New York City.
Travyon in a Sanford gated community. Jordan in a Florida gas station.
Jonathan’s body on a North Carolina road. Renisha’s body on a Detroit front porch. John in an Ohio Walmart. Ezell on a Los Angeles sidewalk. Eric’s body on a New York corner. Mike’s body on a Ferguson street.
It was names and bodies that we will never know in cities and towns across this land.
In every main street and dark corner of this nation, Black people are unsafe to breathe, walk, speak, lead, move, grow, learn and be without the distinct possibility that our blackness will be seen as enough weapon to justify the taking of our lives.
Our education doesn’t save us, for Mike was on his way to college. Our respectability doesn’t spare us, for men and women were lynched in three-piece suits and Sunday dresses. Our innocence doesn’t protect us, for little Aiyana was only seven years old when the officer’s bullet struck her down. We are living an American Horror story. From every corner of life we have assembled, time and time again, to demand we turn the page. Time and again we were met with militarized forces that unlawfully tamped down on peaceful action and peaceful people.
That we must keep emphasizing the civil nature of our disobedience and highly organized struggle is but another moment in the myth of the so-called Black savage our country seems determined to pen on us.
We are despised for our struggle for freedom, despite learning it from those patriots at the Boston Harbor who cried “give me liberty, or give me death” and those Black freedom fighters whose likeness and admonitions are now emblazoned in our Nation’s Capital.In Ferguson, police met our protesting of police brutality with the disgusting irony of greater brutality, the likes of which Americans had never seen on our own soil. In this American town, officers tapped their batons, pointed guns in our faces, kneed our women’s heads, threw our pregnant mothers to the ground, jailed our peaceful clergy and academics, and tear gassed our children. We are living an American Horror Story. But it is significantly past time for the story to end. Never to be told again.
The onus to close this book falls directly on our leadership.
Our elected leaders bear direct responsibility to ensure the safety of every one of its citizens at the hands of its agents, and to capture justice for every life taken. In this, the land of the free, you are responsible for securing and preserving that freedom for all of your citizens, irrespective of or perhaps, especially because of our skin.
In a story in which we have been overwhelmingly targeted, unduly struck down by threat of our blackness, we require explicit attention, protection and value.
We require freedom, and will hold everyone accountable to preserving our inalienable right.
We will no longer live this American Horror Story.
Nonviolent direct action is a necessary, vital, and wholly American tool in forcing meaningful, permanent, transformative action from our leaders and fellow citizens. Today, the 70th day of this nightmare, some may wonder why we have yet to stop to stop chanting, stop marching, stop occupying .
But we have not yet found peace because we do not yet know justice.
Therefore we, together with our allies, will continue to occupy the streets and the American consciousness until the book is closed. Even in facing this terror, we have not met those who mean us harm with the same.
Even in the face of this terror, we will continue to force the readers and writers of this, a most American of horror stories, to face the blackness that they fear, the blackness they have spent this entire story trying to erase, trying to soften, trying to co-opt, trying to escape.
We will no longer allow you to escape this story and pretend that the epidemic of black lives dying by white hands is merely a figment of an active Black imagination. You must come face to face with the horror that we live daily.
You must come to know and profess the truth of this story, and be determined to end it.
We are not concerned if this inconveniences you.
Dead children are more than an inconvenience.
We are not concerned if this disturbs your comfort.
Freedom outweighs that privilege.
We are not concerned if this upsets order.
Your calm is built on our terror.
We are not concerned if this disrupts normalcy.
We will disrupt life until we can live.
This is an American Horror Story. Together, we are writing the final chapter.