Collection Explore
Essay
Cerri Banks
on Pandemic and Protest

Cerri Banks
Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs
Skidmore College

An Open Letter:

Justice. Equality. And to stop being murdered. That is all we ask for. How else do we get your attention? We march. We chant. We shout. For years, you did not believe us, would not believe us.

We TOLD YOU, over and over again that Black and brown people, poor people, trans people, immigrants were being murdered in the streets and in our homes.

We TOLD YOU, over and over again that white supremacy, white privilege, hatred, racism, and unchecked power was rampant in the very institutions that are charged with serving us and protecting us.

And now, the recordings and the videos are everywhere, and you can no longer ignore the truths we have told. You blame us. You use words like “thug,” “terrorist,” and “comply,” even when he is twelve years old and playing with a toy gun. Tamir Rice. Say his name.

Breonna Taylor was asleep in her own bed and they were wrongly at her house. And somehow her death is not murder. “Oh well,” you shrug. “Oh well.”

So, united across all of our identities, we kneel, we lay, we sing, we pray. And these peaceful protests, these free expressions, anger you.

You are indignant that we have the audacity to interrupt your football game and that your eyes have to see our Black bodies, in pain, in protest, that you have to be reminded of George Floyd’s neck being kneeled on until he died. And that your ears have to hear the agony of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters as we experience the gunshots played over and over again on the TV and in our hearts, our psyche, and our souls.

Trauma.

And when frustrations boil over, you shoot us with pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets, and you call the National Guard because the buildings that burned mean more to you than the lives taken and families destroyed. Our speech and our expression are not without cost, despite that we, too, live in the land of the free.

“All Lives Matter,” you shout. Because Black lives mattering scares you and disrupts your comfort and creates cognitive dissonance because you want to believe that racism is not real. And because you refuse to acknowledge that we are not saying Black Lives Matter more. We are saying that Black Lives Matter too.

We want the killing to stop. Is that really so hard to understand? “Black Lives Matter, is it a hate group?” you keep asking me. “No. It is a hope group,” I will reply every single time.

Despite it all, we call upon our ancestors and, like Maya Angelou, WE RISE. We are not broken or weakened. Our heads and our eyes are held high.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.(1)

Justice. Equality. And to stop being murdered. That is all. To live our full humanity. And we will not give up, young and old, side by side, until you take responsibility and action.

No Justice! No Peace!

Cite this page

Banks, Cerri. “Cerri Banks on Isaac Scott.” Tang Teaching Museum collections website. Last modified January 28, 2021. https://tang.skidmore.edu/collection/explore/260-cerri-banks.

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