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​Conflicted In Conflict: My Fight For BLM As A Black Woman In The Military

6 Min Read
Culture

The heartbreaking deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are sadly nothing new for our country, but they have broken the straw on the proverbial camel's back.

All of their stories are tragic in their own right, but the match that lit this fire around the world was the public lynching of George Floyd. I heard about the murder before I ever got a chance to see it, and when clips were being shown I could only stand to digest a good five seconds of what was being captured.

For me, whatever crime George was being accused of before the video started rolling could not have warranted this treatment. An animal doesn't deserve to be subjected to that, much less a human being. I have yet to watch that video in it's entirety, and I doubt I ever will. I saw just enough to know how that story would end. Based on the history of our country we, unfortunately, have seen this same story play out over and over again, the same players in the same roles with the exact same outcome. At one point, I even began to fear that we would see so many acts of police brutality that we would begin to become numb to the sensation of violence against Black people, numb even to death, so numb that it becomes normalized.

Based on the history of this country we, unfortunately, have seen this same story play out over and over again, the same players in the same roles with the exact same outcome.

Despite all of this, the most discouraging part about George Floyd's death is the silence from those around me. I'm taken back to 2012 when we learned of a Black boy named Trayvon Martin who had been shot and killed at the tender age of 17 by the police. Although there was no video footage of his death, it sparked a lot of outrage. Followed by Eric Garner, a Black gentleman who was recorded while placed in a chokehold by the police uttering the chilling, now infamous words "I can't breathe." We sat and watched in disbelief as this man's life slipped through his murderer's literal fingers.

The conversations amongst my friends and family were ones of worry, anger, and disbelief. The energy shift was seismic; people noticed the people who were open to having certain conversations and those who were not.

Thinking back, I can recall a conversation with a coworker of mine on the topic of Trayvon Martin: a non-Black male serving alongside me who had a lot of police officers in his family. He just could not see the humanity of the young boy who had been slain. "What was he doing at that time of night?" "We weren't there so we can't jump to conclusions" "Let's look at the facts, not emotions." While I agree with the sentiment of basing our beliefs on facts, I couldn't help but feel the defensive, even, cold energy coming from this individual regarding this sensitive topic — as if Trayvon had not been human at all.

The energy shift was seismic; people noticed the people who were open to having certain conversations and those who were not.

Fast forward to now, June 2020, I am an African American woman deployed in Afghanistan and serving in the United States Army. I wondered if I would be better off staying in the war torn country of Afghanistan rather than going back to the country I'm fighting for. As a Soldier, I fight for the American people. But I wonder if some of those same people would fight for me in everyday situations. Internally, it's an extremely confusing space.

I am an African American woman deployed in Afghanistan and serving in the United States Army. I wondered if I would be better off staying in the war torn country of Afghanistan rather than going back to the country I'm fighting for.

I am confused because my leader doesn't seem to fight for Black people in situations like this; his silence and lack of willingness to speak on racial injustices is deafening. I am frustrated because as Black people we have been taught that if you get the degree, find a career, speak eloquently, dress in nicer clothes, straighten your hair, don't bring attention to yourself, remove any ounce of your Blackness then things like this won't happen. If we would just comply and keep our heads down, we would be okay. But that is not the truth, and that is not a way to live.

Most of all, I am disheartened by the men and women who I have right next to me who, once again, just do not want to have this conversation. Like COVID-19, police brutality in America is becoming a worldwide topic of conversation. You cannot scroll through a social media platform or watch a news channel and not see the ripple effect that George Floyd's untimely death has had on the world. From Iran to Japan, there have been marches and protests all around the world. People are standing together as one in a way I haven't seen since our country came together after the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

I am disheartened by the men and women who I have right next to me who, once again, just do not want to have this conversation.

However, on my side, in my military community, the lack of acknowledgment in general conversation hurts me, personally, the most. As the only Black woman here, I feel alienated and unsupported. Don't my fellow battle buddies feel the pain of seeing another American's life being taken? Do they not see the injustice in police brutality? Or is this another day and another problem for someone else?

Are we out here fighting for the same group of people — our whole country no matter what race, ethnicity, or identity — or are we each just fighting for the ones that we can identify with. If it was me being attacked and held down, would the fact that I wear the uniform as a soldier be enough for someone in a position of power to see my value? I am left with so many questions of life, death, and uncertainty. Meanwhile, so many around me are clearly unaffected and walking around without a care in the world. I am not surprised — just disheartened.

However, on my side, in my military community, the lack of acknowledgment in general conversation hurts me, personally, the most.

I can appreciate what that there is now a call to action, and I look forward to the change it will bring. Allies are speaking their mind regardless of their image, Black leaders are on loop 24/7 to help guide on how we can change the future. Voices that were once timid and shy are now finding the courage to speak out loud and share their messages of fairness and equality. Even those who avoid the topic of race are more willing and ready than ever to open their minds and hearts and educate themselves on the structure of systematic racism, which has been embedded in America since its inception.

There is an overall theme of togetherness that will cement itself in the history books of our future, regardless of those around me who are not reacting, and I am so proud to see this. I am hopeful for what this movement means for the future of humanity. We have a long way to go, but the dynamic of love that is shifting our country is already being felt all across the world.

This article was originally published June 8, 2020.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.