Contributed by Baba Ly
The murder of Patrick Lyoya on April 4 reminds us once again how dangerous it is for Black people to interact with Police in the United States of America. I have no words to describe this but as an extrajudicial execution.
A traffic stop should never end in such an atrocious murder, no matter what the offense. This country has reliable and functioning institutions that can produce justice.
Watching the full video released by the Grand Rapids Police department, to me Patrick seemed visibly confused. I have provided cultural orientation for many refugees as they arrive in the country, and I know how language and cultural barriers can cause compliance issues within the immigrant communities. This does not mean I condone breaking laws, but some cultural competency and anti-bias trainings for the police would make a huge difference, including saving lives.
Patrick is now another name added to the already too long list of innocent Black people (even this long after George Floyd’s murder) still being murdered by those who are supposed to protect them.
This is what I say often to many who know me: “I came to America because I thought my family and I would feel safer.” However, Patrick’s murder is telling me that being Black in this country feels like being criminal by default from birth. My four kids are all under 11, and so far, are not yet at a moment of their lives to have to deal with police, but those moments are approaching so quickly! Just in the next five, six years… This is making me more and more nervous.
At the moment, my wife and I are doing everything to protect and shield them from any type of visible aggression, even though it has been exhausting for both of us to have to always actively advocate for them at school. It has been very frustrating to witness the racial biases they often have been subjected to since their first day at school. Having to always challenge these microaggressions has been traumatic and draining to us. This made us even question whether this country is the right place to raise our kids.
To those who think that we should be just grateful to be here, this is what I would tell you: We didn’t come to this country for financial reasons, or to accumulate wealth and socio-economic privileges. My wife and I (I believe it’s true for many other immigrants) have been very fortunate to have had good educations abroad and successful careers before we fled our country for reasons similar to Patrick’s family – which fled the Democratic Republic of Congo – and so many others who fled their countries to seek a safer place to call home in America. So, next time you are about to say that, please think twice!
After every tragic attack on Black people, I hear apologies, and words like: “This was a tragedy but we need to move forward and hope this is a lesson – nothing like this will happen again.” But, voilà! Unfortunately, it has become routine, normal, and many of us have become numb to murders of Black people.
I am neither exaggerating, nor being too sensitive, or radical. As a civilized society, we need to question our moral values and the usefulness of our privileges! SILENCE is not an option.
I also wanted to emphasize here what I often repeat to our fellow Black community members! “Racism doesn’t see either our countries of origin, nor the languages we speak, or the tribes we belong to. All that matters to racists is the dark tone of our skin color!”
Founder of ETHICS (Empower The Immigrant Children and Students)
South Portland, Maine