As a soul, I always hear things literally and figuratively, meaning that I like to see the small picture and the big screen. As I was asked to think about police brutality, I can’t help but, in the small picture, think about the three times that I’ve been pulled over in the past two weeks. And, how the day after I was pulled over in Squirrel Hill and asked, “what I was even doing over there?”, I stood at the Mike Brown rally in front of the City-County building where three White male officers stood across the street and one of the officers had his hand on his gun the entire time. As a 26-year-old Black and Native man, I allowed the fear from this officer’s stare succumb me and refused to speak on the mic.
In the big screen, as a writer, I know that my pen has power. As a speaker, I know that my words are mightier than the sword and my voice is commanding. My demeanor, my skin, my walk, my stature, my perceived gender are all identifiers that increase my chance of death to 2 in 3 by a police officer. The system in which I live oppresses me and my very being. By third grade, 85% of young, Black males are reading below the third-grade level. Yes, this system wants to push you out and kill you off.
And, yes, all of these things are true, painful, and traumatic. When you live in a constant state of pain and trauma, it is imperative that you have spaces and access to spaces where you can express the pain and trauma. Where do we, as Black men, go to receive healing, restoration, and fellowship? Where can we go to express our deepest pains and traumas? Some of us go to church. Some hit the basketball court. Many of us find comfort at the bar or in a substance. For me, I find solace in my fiancée and my mother. For many of us, we find solace in our partners and our mothers.
When I zoom out, I know that we, as men, especially men of color, we find ourselves to be in roles of protection for our sisters, as they bear the brunt of oppression so that we can stand on top of patriarchy. I’ve been called somewhat a feminist. As a graduate of Chatham University, a school prided for women’s right and education, I learned that my masculine privilege had afforded me many opportunities that my sisters struggled to never receive. While White women earn $0.76 to dollar of White men, our sisters of color collectively earn $0.61 to the dollar of White men. When I say women, I acknowledge ALL women. As a queer-identified man of trans experience, I must shout from the top of the mountains for my trans sisters, your trans sisters. Our trans sisters face a 1 in 6 chance of being murdered before the age of 31 – the average age of the 6 trans sisters who were murdered in cold-blood this summer was 30.6.
We are being killed. We are being killed. We are being killed.
In the United States of America, from 2008-2013, there were 94 reported murders of trans individual – 95% were trans women of color. Where is the protection? If White women of non-trans experience were being killed at rates this high, there would be an uprising. My brothers, where are we?
We are being killed.
In 1994, my cousin David Battle III,15 years old, was killed on Federal Street in the Northside. The pain of his death swiftly hit my family. We now had a shared experience with so many of our brothers and sisters. As a community, as a racial identity, we have a collective pain and trauma of loss – loss of body, loss of agency, loss of voice, loss of power, loss of family. What spaces are you creating for the conversations about our pain?
We are being killed.
As my sister, Joy Kmt speaks, “our pain needs a witness”. We need to bear witness to our pain and trauma. Our trans sisters are queens, mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, and majestic. It is not their job to tell us about their body or make apologies for being who they are. It is our job to teach our children to do better. It is our job to instill the message that all people deserve to live.
We are being killed.
It is not my job to educate about me to simply have a right to my life. We are fighting for our survival in a system that debates whether my identity is ethical or “if God made me this way”. My life is not up for debate. My right to live my life is not up for discussion. And, as man at the center of a 5-star intersection of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, and so much more, how dare I stay silent in live in the shadows while I bear witness to my sisters perils. The same sisters who hold me, both literally and figuratively. We have a duty to stand up against domestic violence. We have an obligation to speak out against patriarchy. We have an onus to be protectors and providers.
As patriarchy has uplifted the Black males to a position of power, it is imperative that we use our positions of power to uphold the narratives of our sisters. We are being killed. For our collective survival, we have to uphold Kandy Hall, Mia Henderson, Islan Nettles, Marissa Alexander, Cece McDonald, and countless other sisters who have been impacted by the issues that are disproportionately affecting all of us in different ways.
As a man, it’s essential that use my time to speak about coming together. Queer, non-queer, trans, cis, heterosexual, etc., we have to see that if you are chains, I cannot be free. We are fighting for our lives and we cannot be silent. We cannot choose to prioritize whose life means more. We have to step up. We must do better. We must speak out.
And, in the style of my sister, Lourdes Ashley Hunter, I would like to ask everyone stand, gather in a circle, and hold hands with your neighbor, turn to your left, and one at a time tell your neighbor, “My liberation depends on your liberation.”
Michael David Battle
As a lecturer, writer and advocate, Michael David Battle’s vision is to ignite others and move them to action through courageous conversations, exploring vulnerabilities, and collectively manifesting spaces of healing and restoration.