Living in a World of Color


Jahniya Marion

Growing up in today’s society, people are judged based on their appearance or even their skin color. People are so quick to judge without actually knowing each other. Like stereotypes, stereotypes are unfair and untrue beliefs that others have about all people or things with certain characteristics. For example, African Americans are presented as “ghetto” or “not well put together” and “rude and nasty.” It’s an opinion based on others without them actually knowing us.

African Americans come from a huge historical black background, starting in the year 1619 when slavery first existed. Slavery was a challenging time for African Americans. It was a time when another was owning one human. Black people were to do and say anything the white people told them to do, and if they didn’t, they would have the free will to beat them until they bleed, and they could torture them in any way with no consequences. Slavery came with a lot of sacrifices for friends and family. I bow to all my ancestors who took the risk and sacrifice for us today. It took a lot. Slavery ended in the year 1865, or so they say it did. To this day, we, as African Americans, still get treated very poorly. It is always incident after incident; when will it ever stop? 

One of the first incidents that occurred was in 1955. A 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till was abducted, tortured, and lynched by two white men. These two men ordered Emmett to carry a 75-pound cotton gin to the river and told him to take off all his clothes. They beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton gin with barbed wire, into the river. Many say this 14-year-old boy got treated this way because he flirted with a white woman and sexually harassed her. However, many knew that wasn’t true, and many knew it was more to the story that wasn’t being addressed. This incident took place four days before the actual murder. Emmett Till was just a young boy visiting his family in town and was easily targeted as a young black male. As years passed, the “silent woman,” Carolyn Bryant Doham, finally revealed that her claims against Emmett Till were all false. She had no excuse for her actions or why she waited over six decades to tell her truth. This incident shocked the media and was so sad and sickening. When I hear these stories, so many chills run through my body. Emmett was so young, and he was put at such an injustice. I can only imagine how his parents felt, especially after years later finally finding out the truth and what happened to their son.  

As years pass by, more and more of these incidents occur. Eric Garner was killed on July 14th, 2014. He was tackled to the ground by police officers. They had Eric in a choke hold as he uttered the words “I can’t breathe” 11 TIMES as he died on the scene due to suffocation. This incident was filmed by a bystander and spread worldwide, which led to a protest across the country. 

 In November 2014, a 12-year-old boy named Tamir Rice was shot dead by a police officer because somebody reported him as “probably a juvenile.” A 12-YEAR-OLD BOY… come on. Tamir was reported because a lot of bystanders or people who were present at the scene said they “think he has a gun.” They weren’t at all sure of this. As police arrived at the scene, they told him to put the gun down, but Tamir didn’t listen. They shot him seven times and later found out he was holding a toy after he was presumed dead at the scene. 

On July 6th, 2016, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American, was shot and killed by a police officer. He was shot at a traffic light. Seconds before the killing, Philando told the officer he had a licensed firearm in the car. As Mr. Castile reached for his WALLET, the officer fired at him five times as his girlfriend filmed the incident in the passenger seat and with his four-year-old daughter in the back. The jury acquitted the officer, and he wasn’t punished for any of the actions he took. 

On February 26th, 2012, a 17-year-old boy, Trayvon Martin, was walking back to his house from the convenience store; he was shot and killed by the neighborhood volunteer patrol. Trayvon was dressed in a sweatshirt. He was buying a bag of skittles and a drink. George Zimmerman who was the neighborhood patrol approached Trayvon. George called in to let the Stanford police know that Trayvon looked “suspicious.” Zimmerman came and applied force and later on, shots were fired. Zimmerman claims he acted out of self-defense. However, moments later, he claimed that Trayvon was only a threat because he was black. This means that Trayvon was fatally shot and killed solely because he was BLACK. This was a crime that had an immense effect on the world. The president of the United States at the time, Barack Obama got involved, and many celebrities marched in protests to support the death of Trayvon. News reporters everywhere were constantly trying to get everyone’s point of view on this incident. The hate for George Zimmerman was very disgusting. People hated that man with a passion. Everybody wanted peace and freedom for Trayvon; he was so innocent. The movement of “Black Lives Matter” started after this incident had taken place. Many people began to walk around in hoodie sweatshirts claiming, “I am Trayvon.” His death inspired a new generation of protests against police violence toward black people. 

In February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead by two white men as they chased him down all because he was “jogging” in the neighborhood. In March 2020, Breonna Taylor was shot seven times as the police raided her apartment without consultation or any reason. In May 2020, George Floyd was killed by an officer as a result of the officer having his knee on the neck of George Floyd. At the same time, the other officer on the scene had his knee pinning down his legs. As George Floyd squealed for help and kept saying, “I CAN’T BREATHE,” the officer continued with more and more force, leaving him dead. 

As a young black girl, things were taught in my family a bit earlier than expected. Your parents teach you always to say yes, sir and no, ma’am when approached by an officer and always to make sure you let the officer know your next movement before doing it, so you want to make them nervous. Most importantly, keep your hands on the dashboard so the officer can see your hands at all times, and DO NOT RUN, or they will shoot with no hesitation. When I was younger, holding my chin up and being proud that I was black was hard. I always felt like I had to look a certain way or act a certain way just because I was black. Growing up and seeing all these things at a young age scared me of the world. I couldn’t even feel comfortable in my own world because I saw people that looked like me get shot over nothing….only because they’re black. Knowing that you could get treated or looked at poorly only because you’re black scared me a lot at a young age. I used to be scared whenever I came across a police officer. It feels like I can’t trust them at times; they make me so scared and nervous. It was a scary time and still is because you don’t know what to expect. But to this day, I’m proud to say I am black and live in a world of history. It might not be beautiful, but it’s something to stand up for and to appreciate.