Silence can be deadly. It locks up the pain and suffering that one goes through. Knowing that there are bystanders who see you being broken down until you are nothing is even worse.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." I found this to be true, especially when it affects a multitude of people. This silence can resonate from around the globe, even in what you call the safety of your home.
Let's go back to the age of 5, where everything is all brand new. In school you see all these public figures in all shapes and sizes, but no one is like you. This can lead to the assumption that this is how the world looks and you do not fit.
You realize that the majority of children around you look nothing like you. For years you are stuck in silence, constantly being reminded how different you are.
As you and your peers grow older and start to form your own views of the world around you, things slowly but surely start to get ugly. Harsh judgment becomes prevalent among adolescent minds. It can be based on how you look, how you dress, how you act, how you feel, or who you love.
While all these things are still factors, you also have to speak for your whole community. A community based solely on your skin color, and you are the head representative at the age of 12. You are reminded on how "to properly speak," when you had the exact same education as them. You are constantly compared to a dark, creme-filled cookie. You find nothing wrong at first, and wonder what the meaning was behind it.
Suddenly, a news alert. Teen shot dead in neighborhood after altercation. You would usually expect a quick arrest, a swift court case, and a hearty sentence, like most crimes. This received a totally different response. The victim became the criminal in the public eye. He was the object of ridicule and had been constantly demonized.
Seeing both sides of the situation boiled down to knowing what the truth was, and what the slandering of an individual was. I have never seen death justified so quickly. I could not even talk to my closest friends, because they would never understand my point of view. I was silenced once more.
As the years went on, I started to notice a pattern. Individuals being shot after lawful altercations. Men, women and children losing their lives who just so happened to look like me. This brought a combination of caution and frustration.
These people could have been my brothers, my sisters, my parents, my cousins, my neighborhood friends. Why is this affecting the community I hold so dear to my heart?
Then it clicked. The reason was for the same features I was singled out for my whole life. I wasn't the only one to see this. My whole community did. I saw the many attempts to bring this to attention happen right before me. Solidarity throughout an entire nation, with people saying the one thing everyone would or should say about himself or herself -- that they matter.
It turns out the people who had the louder voice were the bystanders. The majority of thoughts on the matter were, "That has never happened to me, so that cannot be valid."
Valid. That word brought an ocean of silence. Invalidation was the straw that broke the camel's back. Being told that your thoughts, your feelings, your voice, your struggle, your safety, your life means nothing is not something you would want to hear.
I soon learned that people are quick to not believe what they can't see. Bystanders can never know the evil system behind forced silence. The only way you can be unaware of what is happening around you is if you are privileged enough to have the right to be oblivious or simply not informed.
So we will take a stand for the awareness of others, because we will not be silent any longer. Your life has always mattered, but what about time?
Tyrese Galloway, of Palmetto is in the 11th grade at State College of Florida Collegiate School.