If a new anti-immigration bill passes in Tennessee, local officers will have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws and will be required to ask for documentation during routine traffic stops. Undocumented immigrants, many of whom have only known life in this country, will face the fear of being uprooted from their home and deported because of the bill.
If I'm being honest, it's already a little scary, sometimes, being a person of color in America these days. Standing in your own backyard, waiting for a friend at a coffee shop, or disputing paying for plastic utensils at a diner — these are just a few things black or brown people have done recently and have been threatened, harassed, or even killed because of.
This is not okay. A black man getting pulled over by a cop shouldn't have to worry if a traffic stop will cost him his life. A Latino man walking in his neighborhood for exercise shouldn't have to worry about being approached by a cop asking for his documentation.
It's an injustice.
I know by now some of you are probably tired of hearing the same sad song over and over, because it's not your sad song — it's someone else's. It's a song you'll never know or relate to or have to sing. But it's the song of your neighbor who lives on the other side of the tracks. It's their reality.
The reality is that there is a real problem in this country. People are being profiled, mistreated, and sometimes physically harmed because of how they talk, how they dress, or how their skin looks.
It's out of hand, and everyone has a part to play in breaking this cycle that colors America's history and is slowly bleeding into its future. If you have never been on the receiving side of prejudice or racism, then maybe it's time to acknowledge that for some people, unfortunately, it's a normal occurrence. Listen, be compassionate, and seek to be understanding. Stop judging.
Maybe next time someone feels uncomfortable around or threatened by a person who doesn't look like them, they should stop and ask themselves why they feel that way. They should stop and ask themselves: Is this person really a threat, or am I just unfamiliar with their culture? That's probably what the employee in that Philadelphia Starbucks should have done before calling the cops on two black men sitting in the cafe waiting for a business meeting.
And perhaps dozens of young black men would still be alive if people would have reconsidered the so-called threat of their presence before alerting the authorities or before the authorities came and neutralized the "threat."
Still, it wouldn't be fair to put the ball completely in the court of non-black and brown people when it comes to changing the narrative of this country. As people of color, we must decide to rise up, move on, and do our part in changing that narrative. The sad song that's been repeated for years and years can turn into something new.
But, the tune will never change and the wounds of the past will never heal if they're not tended to in the right way. Sulking and pointing fingers is like reopening those wounds again and again. It's time we forgive the past and forgive the system that for years deemed people of color as inferior. It's time to move forward.
Challenges are still present. That goes without saying. Racism, stereotyping, and hatred will always exist in society; it's just a symptom of the human condition. The justice system still needs work, lots of our neighborhoods need care, and public education in low-income areas needs a revamp.
But none of those factors stop us from taking pride and responsibility in our communities and doing what we can with what we have. We can start with lending a hand in our own neighborhoods, and filling in where needed so that children don't grow up without role models and mentors. We have to encourage our youth to stay in school, stay off the streets, and seek a better life.
As people of color, we can work our way out of the disadvantages that were years in the making. But it will take intentionality and a resolve to never give up.
Maya Smith is a Flyer staff writer.