Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Brian Keith Oliver. I’m a 31 year old African American male residing in Baltimore, Maryland. I grew up in a middle class family who certainly had it good by society’s standards. I attended only the best public schools that the city had to offer. I graduated from one of the state’s top public universities. I’m one course away from obtaining another degree. I drive a luxury car. I’m a homeowner. I’ve traveled to almost 30 different countries. I’ve eaten at the finest of restaurants. I’ve sat in the room with many well known individuals. I grew up highly involved within the black church. I have no felonies. I have morals. I have values. By your standards, this is the “dream”. Yet, I feel so unaccomplished. At times I feel hopeless. Confused.
In grade school I learned of Abraham Lincoln, the man who abolished the institution of slavery. As I grew older I heard the stories of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. I saw the pictures and videos of so many passionate and dedicated individuals, marching and demanding equal rights. I read the bills and laws passed granting these rights.
I can recall sitting in a political science course in college and analyzing the results of polls as it appeared that America was so close to finally electing a black man as president. I watched on the treadmill at the gym as the election results rolled in and at last… someone who looked like me was now the face of the nation. He spoke about CHANGE, HOPE and MOVING FORWARD. Had our prayers finally been answered?
Eight years later, things have certainly changed, but much has gotten worse. Were the sleepless nights and grueling schedules of my ancestors worthless? All of the hard work and effort seems to have just not been enough.
Every single day, I turn on the television or open the internet browser on my computer and cell phone and see the faces of so many of my people who have been robbed of their lives; robbed of their freedom. I then have to sit and ask myself, “am I safe?” Am I safe to drive? Am I safe to stand on a street corner without being profiled as a suspect? Am I safe to walk around wearing a shirt with a hood attached?
From birth, I’ve pledged allegiance to a flag, ending my pledge with the words “with liberty and justice for ALL!” I’ve sang a song “my country tis of thee, SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY!” I’ve gone to sporting events constantly hearing an anthem that ends with the words “o’er the land of the FREE, and the home of the brave!” Yet, I keep having to endure uncertainty, heart break and disgust.
What more must be done? How many more lives must be taken? Just how much more mentally tough am I expected to be before I break?
At times I feel like I am in an abusive relationship with no way out. But, I stick around waiting on the day when you will miraculously change and love me the way that I love you.
So, tell me America.
Can we make this work?