We Have Dreams Too
A few weeks ago I shared a conversation with two of my teenage cousins, much like my older cousins did for me - a little personal time to hear their perspectives. One night a discussion about horoscopes turned into the realities of the future and what they can accomplish with what’s ahead. One being more of a bookworm than the other, couldn’t help herself from talking about the books she’s read and the ways of the world beyond; the possibilities at her fingertips. The athletically-inclined (athlete is a stretch), cousin has his head in the clouds dreaming of basketball courts and fanfare. Both of them, being kids, were so filled with ambition for the things they can accomplish in the future.
I remember being their age, thinking I’d be married by 23, with a job and at least an apartment. I mean, I had overachieved in pretty much everything I’d done up until that point, what was going to stop me from getting ahead of myself? But looking back on my experiences, and those close to me, forced me to realize something: in life, being who I am, looking the way that I look, will forever work against me. I shared this feeling with them. Not to kill their dreams, but to let them know that their dreams will sometimes be out of their control due to the factors they can’t change. Their road to success will never be the same as those who don’t look like them.
They both nodded their heads in approval, but I could tell they weren’t all the way with me. So I reminded them of Trayvon Martin. Not what the verdict was or what transpired, but rather, what the public reaction was. An incident where a grown man kills a young kid, and the onus was placed equally on them both - “They’re both idiots,” someone once told me - And Tamir Rice being shot for playing with a BB gun in a public playground. And Cyntoia Brown being sentenced to 51 years-to-life in prison for killing a man she claims tried to rape her at 16 years old...16!!! And Sandra Bland being stopped for failing to signal a lane change, being arrested for refusing to put out her cigarette, turning up dead in her jail cell a few days later. I informed them that the people who look like us make up about 12% of the country, yet account for over 30% of the prison population.
My point to them, and to those reading this, is that we do not have the courtesy of being “kids,” nor the freedom of challenging authority in defense of the rights and privileges supposedly awarded to inhabitants of this country. We don’t have the same rules as others. We are still writing our history, fighting for the right to be seen, heard, understood. I’m not sure what my cousins will do with what I told them, hopefully the change we hope to see in the world continues to manifest itself within them, no armed with this understanding.
My personal outrage isn’t merely because we don’t appear to get the same level of justice as others, it’s deeper than that. It’s that we don’t feel as if it is understood that we too aspire to learn, grow, earn…live. It’s because we are fighting your antiquated system to remind you that, like you, we have dreams too.