My parents were 10 years old when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed.
My mom’s family is from Mississippi and my dad’s family is from Alabama. I grew up hearing stories of a Jim Crow South and have seen photos of my mom near Coloreds Only water fountains.
Of the stories, what stood out the most was how insistent my grandmother was about voting in every election. She passed her own stories of protests and riots, and made sure I know the importance of exercising a right many had died for.
I watched the events of Jan. 6, 2021 unfold with a range of emotions finally landing somewhere between anger and frustration.
My emotions had little to do with the actual events that took place and the most to do with my Black life.
This past summer, I watched my Black friends get shot with rubber pellets, tear gassed and arrested for organizing and attending marches like the generations before us. They were marching for the right to live; the right to exist in a world where the people sworn in to protect them did that without causing harm to their families and communities.
Yesterday, I watched droves of white men and women descend on the nation’s Capitol at the call of our president. I watched these men and women push past police and make it to the Senate floor. I watched them have armed standoffs with police officers. I watched them break into offices and steal mail.
As I watched the violence at the Capitol unfold, the only thought that lingered in my head is that if they were Black they would already be dead.
But reading my social media timelines — one of the most draining experiences I’ve had in a long time— revealed that we were not all experiencing these events in the same way.
I read one post from a white social worker who gave parents wonderful tips about how to talk about the crisis with their children.
While her advice was sound, I caught myself asking, “Did she make a post like this when Black people were protesting?”
For the first time this presidency, I saw my white social media friends share an outpouring of anger that matches what I’ve felt throughout. But again, I caught myself thinking:
They were silent for George Floyd.
They were silent for Ahmaud Arbery.
They were silent for Breonna Taylor.
But here they were, posting loudly about their disgust and how “un-American” the events of the first Wednesday of 2021 were.
Reading their statuses and their posts made it all the more clear for me.
They had never posted before because they never saw it as their problem. They could never see themselves as Philando Castile or Sandra Bland. They could never see their children as Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin.
But they could see their grammys, paw paws, aunts, uncles, friends and maybe even themselves, on the steps of the Capitol. They could see their conservative family members storming into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on a misguided mission of justice.
The outrage, the anger, the expression of shame and tears across my feed for what happened in the Capitol Building from my white friends displayed more emotion than I’ve seen from them about the innocent lives that have been lost over the last few years.
Then there were my Black social media friends.
Their shared anger was less about what was happening and more about how we could never do the same thing without becoming martyrs.
There was the fact that Black votes caused this reaction. A nearly 66-year-old right (for us) was exercised legally. And it caused this chaos.
It is impossible to remove the duality of race from how we experienced the insurrection at the Capitol — or from our anger and fear.
And as we move into this transition of power, I am scared. Scared for the life of Georgia’s first Black senator. Terrified for the life of America’s first Black vice president.
I am afraid for my own life.