The Unbearable Silence of the World in the Face of Those Whose Lives Were Taken

October 4, 2016
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Hernán Piñera)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Hernán Piñera)

By Guest Contributor: Ammara Khursheed

July 6th 2016: At work, I check Facebook, my newsfeed is flooded with images of the gruesome murder of yet another member of the black community, Alton Sterling. Later that night, I stumble across the video of Philando Castile’s death. 2 black bodies stained with red blood in the span of 24 hours.

When these attacks happen, I can’t help but think of my black and brown family members and their safety so I made a few phone calls inquiring on the safety of my family. The safety of my disabled and vulnerable uncle, the safety of my visibly Muslim parents, brothers, and sister, and the safety of my cousins who are both black and Muslim. Two targeted identities in today’s world.

These phone calls are now a part of my daily routine. I can’t help but fear for my family members. I live in daily fear that we will be the next victims of targeted terrorist attacks or police brutality. While we, members of the black and brown community fear, the world…it remains silent.


Yes, the hashtags get used. Yes their names are repeated. But only for a few weeks. The hashtags wears out until another name has to be repeated. Until another innocent life does not live to its promised potential. And this vicious cycle repeats itself, day in and day out.

In a conversation this morning with a friend, we raised questions. Why do we as the black and brown community have to repetitively beg for you to see our humanity? Why is the value and dignity of our life only attributed to a hashtag? Why are our cultures appropriated but our bodies tainted with blood?

Finally… How do we organize?

How do we collectively mourn, then harbor our energies into productive activism?

Yes we are heartbroken, but we are hopeful. Yes, we are tired of pleading with you to accept our melanin but our chants, protests, and outcries won’t stop. Our chants may be met by rubber bullets and mass arrests but our only demands are freedom and dignity.
Over the years, the struggle of people of color and Muslims has been called many names. But no matter the name, one fact is most definitely clear. The world has been watching genocide in slow motion. The deaths of people of color and Muslims is now an everyday banality.

The death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, and the deaths of Deah, Yusor, and Razan in 2015 left the world shocked, but not moved. The deaths of Alton, Philando, and Dr. Arslan Tajammul has left the world shocked, but it MUST MOVE US.

It seems as though no number of dead people of color and Muslims will tip the world’s conscious. It seems as though everyday, another innocent life and a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams is lost. Their faces greet us on our facebook walls and twitter feeds. Their stories become our own as we absorb them into our histories. We do not have the luxury of the world’s blind eyes. We cannot stop counting our dead. We cannot turn away from their faces or their names. From the fundamental desire to remember and mourn our immense loss, we WILL remember their names.

I am a strong believer that we are the catalysts for change. We have to mobilize, strategize, and revolutionize. This revolution that sprung from the original human desire to live has instead taught us instead infinite wisdom about death. And yes, death, in every form permeates us. But the names of those victims will not live in vain. Let’s create an oral memorial where each victims’ name is read out loud.

When you call someone by their name, something materializes about the individual. The concrete syllables of one’s name represents everything that person is or was supposed to be. Lives that never reached their promised potential. The weight of recognition that they deserve but were never granted. We can render these names visible for a moment in time before it disappears once more.

We can and will face the world’s silence with our only weapon, one that ignited this revolution, our voices. We will unleash the ghosts we carry within us among the very politicians and officials who pretend to know the meaning of humanity.

Within each name, an embedded question, how many more? How many more black, brown, and Muslim bodies must be sacrificed before the world remembers that vow “never again”? How many more black, brown, and Muslim bodies must be sacrificed before politicians understand that these tragedies cannot merely be regretted in a paragraph in their future best-selling memoirs?

Someday, we won’t have to ask “how many more”?

And that day, I fear.

Ammara is a student double majoring in Neuroscience and Community Health with double minors in Conflict Analysis and Resolution and Health Administration and Policy at George Mason University with plans of attending medical, law, and graduate school. Ammara is passionate about social entrepreneurship and advocacy and has a personal mission of striving towards gender equity and serving underserved and marginalized populations.

In her free time, you can find Ammara working on blog posts centered around intersectionality in social justice movements, reading and researching social innovation in medicine and technology, or working on implementing social service and healthcare technology programs in the greater DC/Metropolitan area.

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