Fine Art Portfolio

Atatiana Jefferson

Series: Dreams of Justice

Acrylic Paint

Part of my series commemorating those whose lives have been lost to police brutality and anti-black violence.

Her death has hit me hard. Maybe it’s the age – she was 28, like me. She was hanging out with her nephew and playing video games, something i used to do a lot with my oldest nephew. Maybe it’s that she was just home doing things most people do, and ended up being senselessly murdered for no reason at all. A beautiful soul, just gone. In an instant.

Yet as much as I feel similar to her, some things are devastatingly different. The chances that anything like this would happen to me, a white woman, are so infinitesimally small that it’s irrelevant to even speculate. Yet inexplicable murders at the hands of law enforcement of POC (who are doing nothing other than living an average American life) are so frequent they aren’t even a shock. I think of my husband and our biracial children. I cannot take their safety for granted the way I was raised to take my own for granted. How easily could it have been a story about him? About any one of his family members?

When people speak of white privilege, they are not saying “I think all white people are rich”. They are speaking of things like this. The inherent privilege (advantage) of being able to expect safety in your own home. Of trusting that a call to the police will result in you being helped. Of being able to own or even hold a gun and never fear that anyone assumes nefarious motives. Of trusting that your murder would be taken seriously and the perpetrator punished accordingly.

I know that none of the devastation and helplessness that I feel holds a candle to what her family and black Americans as a whole must feel. The pain, fear, rage of so many who have yet another item in the long list of things that cannot safely be done “while black”. Things I have never had to give a second thought to. Walking home. Selling loose cigarettes. Playing at the park. Holding a toy gun. Sit in your own home. How many people cannot feel safe even in their OWN HOME?

We need to do better. We need to train better. We need to expect better. If the issue is training, why aren’t we implementing serious training reforms in law enforcement? If the issue is a “few bad apples”, why aren’t those bad apples being eradicated before they murder people (most have a documented history of problematic behavior and speech)? Why are entire departments lying for, covering for, planting evidence for, and continually enabling those bad apples? If racism is such a serious thing that most everyone gets unbelievably angry at even the mention of such a word directed at them, why don’t we actually take racism and racist acts seriously?

We, as a country, need to actually square up and deal with the horrors of our racist past and the ways that has continued to today. It cannot be left in the past because it is not the past. It is our present and will continue into our future if we do not consciously and intentionally tear down the systems and mindsets upholding oppression.

She’s looking to the future that she will never get the chance to experience. The medicine she’ll never get the chance to practice. The games she’ll never get to play with family. The family she’ll never get the opportunity to build herself. Her life mattered.