I Waive My Right to Remain Silent
“I have the right to remain silent.”
I recited that part of the Miranda rights every time a senseless murder of a Black person occurred at the hands of a police officer. “I have the right to remain silent.” Why must I speak out? What will I say? My selfish internal rant continued with an even bigger cop out, “I took up for my people daily in graduate school; a permanent apologist. Every time something came out in the media and my white classmates turned to me for answers, I carried the weight of my race. I defended, explained, and endured.
Rather than breaking under the pressure, I never swayed too far from the middle. I strategically avoided becoming too militant or worse, a unicorn, by pretending that such injustices did not exist. Instead, I exhaustively answered questions while standing on my invisible soap box, hoping that my explanation would suffice. This was especially exhausting during my time at Boston College. I joined a Black Sunday dinner group as a means of refilling what I poured out in class during the week.
I had the right to remain silent. In turn I was rendered speechless; choked by grief so deep that only a person of color who has experienced marginalization coupled with the DNA from our founding forefathers understands. A lineage that makes us (Black) American, but still not covered by the blood. I rationalized my silence while simultaneously biting my lip until it bled when my brothers Travon, Eric, and Michael were killed.
I continued my silence and wept in private while praying to God to make it stop; the killing, racism, and injustice. But I can no longer remain silent. They have killed a sister. So far, there has been only one march in her honor. Ironically, it was a silent march. What is there left to say? Within the Black community, there is a different value equated to the life of a Black woman. A lesser value.
Like Tupac said in the rap Keep Your Head Up, his ode to Black women:
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
This latest tragedy has forced me to waive my right to remain silent because the latest victim to die under suspicious circumstances while in police custody was a Black female from the Chicago area. For years, Black women have stood in the gap for men of color, including Malcolm and Martin; serving as character witnesses when they were publicly martyred, their dirty laundry aired in the wake of their deaths. We rallied, protested, held fish frys to raise money, and even created academic text geared towards validating their legacy.
It is time to break my silence as I say her name: Sandra Bland.
Going forward, I waive my right to remain silent on issues of racial and social injustice. I will pray that with each word I write, I am able to speak the truth in love.
Eraina Davis- Ferguson is a graduate of Yale Divinity School. She received her MAR in Religion with a focus in Black Religious and the African Diaspora.