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Man, it took a while to gather my thoughts on this one. It took some time for me to find the accurate words to say. I had to find them quickly. I couldn’t become a silent betrayer to my culture. On July 5, 2016, social media blew up with videos of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Sterling, a 37-year-old black male, was shot by police in Baton Rouge, LA in response to a phone call alleging that he flaunted a gun. Videos from cell phones caught the terrible end of Sterling’s life.

Still in uproar, it would be another cell phone footage that would capture the death of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black male, by yet another police officer in Falcon Heights, MN who pulled Castile and his girl-friend, Diamond Reynolds, over for a busted tail light. How do you intelligently respond to these tragic incidents when your emotions are completely involved? There seems to be an apparent systematic killing of African Americans by police officers in America; the same officers who took an oath to protect the citizens of America. Instead of feeling secure and assured that things will get better and justice will actually be served this time, I am honestly afraid and doubtful.

I am afraid that I will be playing cowboys with my nephew in front of our house when our NERF guns will be mistaken for real weapons. What if my sister gets pulled over for turning right on red and things go left? My cousins could be victims of mistaken identity or my father could have his right taken away if he denies officers the opportunity to search his property. Worst of all, we could all be shot because we are black and were born into a world that had pre-conceived notions about us and we had less than a fighting chance to change those beliefs.

Since the year has begun, 512 people have been shot and killed by police officers and 123 of them were black, according to The Washington Post. In an alleged retaliation, five officers were killed and six other officers wounded in Dallas, TX during a peaceful protest for the killings of Sterling and Castile. Before we all know it, there will be a civil war in America with little to no survivors. What are we to do?

We take action. We join organizations that are about change; organizations that will approach our local, state and national officials on the greater public’s behalf to implement change. We need laws put in place to prevent occurrences like this from happening and to punish current offenders. Offenders should not get off because they wear suits and a badge. They are no greater than any other citizen and are not above the law.

We cannot treat them like they treat us. An eye for an eye will leave us all blind and no one to see right from wrong. Not all officers want to harm us and not all white people have it out for us. Some of them are our allies and want to see equality just as bad as we do.

We cannot stop educating the ignorant. I can admit that I am tired of having the black lives vs all lives matter conversation, but I will continue to enlighten the world until there isn’t a need to say it any longer because finally, all lives matter. Saying black lives matter does not eliminate the lives of others, instead, we want the world to know that our lives matter just as much as everyone else’s and until everyone recognizes it, the chants will continue.

We unite. We can’t expect other cultures to respect us and treat us equally when we don’t do it ourselves. We need to stop being crabs in a barrel and help one another. Uplift your community, fix your neighborhood, educate one another and lend a helping hand. My mother told me to always bring someone up with me because the top is lonely and if I should fall, I’ll need someone to help cushion me.

If Kendrick Lamar’s words could ever speak to you, let them do so now.

“But mama, don’t cry for me, ride for me, try for me, live for me, breathe for me, sing for me, honestly guiding me, I could be more than I gotta be, stole from me, lied to me, nation hypocrisy, code on me, drive on me, wicked my spirit inspired me. Like yeah, open correctional gates in higher desert. Yeah, open our mind as we cast away oppression. Yeah, open the streets and watch our beliefs…”

The change that we need lives in us, we just have to birth it.

© Jonathan Bachman / Reuters