Black Lives shouldn’t just matter!

Black lives shouldn’t only matter, they should be cherished, loved, respected and nurtured.

It’s been over three years since I moved to the US from Cameroon; and my perspective as an African has changed drastically as it relates to race, skin color and perceptions of what it means to be Black.

My reflections are inspired by the post from Niel Degrasse Tyson and MKBHD. I’ve never met Niel but MKBHD, sure yeah it was a good 5 minutes.

Growing up in Africa, I didn’t have any notion of what it means to be dark skinned. No one really gave much thought to this since it was everywhere. However, as I grew up, I started learning about the horrors of the Trans-atlantic and Trans-saharan slave trades; then the wave of European Colonialism that followed. These events wreaked havoc on the African continent which we still haven’t fully recovered till this day.

Watching the election of America’s first Black President in 2008 gave me hope and I dreamed of moving to America some day. As his rule progressed we started reading about Police brutality in the US on Black people. These horror stories haunted me and forced me to think deep about the perceived biases towards Black people. I started reading on Racism in America, Jim Crow, Tulsa riots, and horrors leading up to the civil rights struggle, mass incarceration, red-lining in housing policies and police brutality. It was hard to finish these books and articles without crying.

Currently working as a Software Engineer in San Francisco, isolates me from some these day-to-day experiences, but I remember my very first first hand exprience of racism. It was in 2013 when I came to the US for a Google Internship and visited Stanford University. It was a big day for them since there was this football game going on between Stanford and UCLA. I remember walking towards the stadium with my best friend and I could see hordes of people coming our way. One thing we noticed as people approached us was that they moved away from the pavement onto the surrounding grass; and everyone else followed that pattern with a few exceptions, it looked from our perspective like we had a force field around us and everyone else was moving outside of it. I couldn’t believe and I turned to my friend and said “Why are they afraid of us?".

I let that one slide, after moving to the US where I’ve been living for 3 years now gives me limited experience on day-to-day racism. How much can you really experience in 3 years. Yeah, one thing I quickly realized was wherever I go, whenever I walk into a place, get on a bus; people tend to adjust and people usually don’t sit next to me on a bus or train in SF especially when there are available seats somewhere else. People always stare at me when I’m reading a book; may be I’m the first Black person they’ve ever seen holding/reading a book, who knows really.

Some of my Black friends tell me about the racism they experience at work on a day-to-day basis from co-workers/team mates at bigger tech companies, some worked at Tesla, Unity etc. Their stories were horrible, Thank God I haven’t experienced that at my current company.

It’s crazy to think that you could be an Engineer/Scientist/CEO and get killed by a Cop one day; these are things my white friends haven’t ever thought about, but this shit is REAL. However, any organization I’ll be a part of; I’ll make sure I call-out or oppose any systems of racism in place. We can’t continue living like this, this has to stop eventually.

However, the events over the past few weeks show there’s hope; the solidarity I’ve seen from people across this country makes me believe things will change; it’s quite unfortunate our country today is like a rudderless ship; but that’s something Americans will have to decide in November. As James Baldwin said in the Fire Next time “The fact that your skin is black is awfully irrelevant to the argument that you raise." which I agree strongly.

We shall overcome!