Cause of Death: Black

07/13/2016 05:47 pm ET
I’m not a journalist, so I don’t know the right things to say and how best to say them, but I do have something to say.
For the first time in a month, I slept yesterday, undisturbed. I won’t list the events that have transpired in this last month that have kept me up due to various reasons; but if you don’t know, Google ‘Gay’, ‘Black’, and ‘Muslim’. Yesterday, I wanted one mental break away from everything to celebrate my religious holiday with my family. That did not last long as news of Alton Sterling broke through and I watched the soul of a helpless Black man reluctantly leave his body. Helpless. Help-less. Helpless and Black. My sleep yesterday was not a relaxed one, it was due to exhaustion. I was finally with my family and felt safe enough to sleep, though sometimes I think I’ll never sleep peacefully again.
This story isn’t about me though. As I slept yesterday, a friend of mine was wide-awake. A Black friend. A Black, helpless friend. I use the word ‘helpless’ because it’s how I see the victims in these videos. Powerless to help themselves as they are executed without reason. Cause of Death: Black. If I slept last night, how did I know that my friend did not? It’s because he broke my heart with a single sentence he sent at 1:02 am, a message I woke up to.
“Humama, if I ever die in a cop shooting I want you to be my Abdullah Muflahi.”
I was sad before I even finished reading the sentence, because a good person and friend was fearing for his life due to not fault of his own.  
Who is Abdullah Muflahi? He is the owner of the convenience store that Alton Sterling often sold CDs outside of, a friend and a key witness of his death. Muflahi is now standing up for Sterling, speaking to his character and sharing his story. I felt in that one sentence, “Humama, if I ever die in a cop shooting I want you to be my Abdullah Muflahi,” my friend’s fear, anxiety, sadness, confusion, and anger. He wanted to ensure, just in case something like this happened to him, that he had a friend he trusted to speak on his behalf and be honest about who he was. That he was a person who worked tirelessly against many odds to get into medical school. That he is one that treats everyone fairly, promotes understanding between different groups, and volunteers. That he lights up every environment that he’s in, and has the whole room laughing within minutes.  He doesn’t need to be any of that to have the right to live. He should not have to prove to the world that he’s good enough, “Hi, I know that I’m Black and it may look like I’m violent or I may not be worthy in your eyes, but I’m a good person…I swear.” These are the words and statements the racist examination of Black individuals is asking for; the words are not exactly the same, but the meaning is clear as ever.
Friend, you’ve broken my heart so perhaps now it’s my time to break yours. I don’t want to be your Abdullah Muflahi. I want to be your Humama Khan, and I want you to be You.  I want to stand beside you through all of your success, I want to sit beside you through all of your sadness, and I want to dance next to you through all the things you celebrate. I want you to live, and I want this world to let you live. I want people to respect your God given right to life.
I could have defended the BLM movement with statistics, and paragraphs of evidence in this post, but I don’t need to do that because one death was enough and my friends should not be fearing for their lives. It’s actually pretty simple. Respect others.  This is only one of the many stories of pain and injustice, I have many more because these problems did not start of late. As children it is actualized at some point you’re being treated differently and the reason for this is black and white, crystal clear. Black and White.
I don’t think there’s a term coined to describe a feeling that includes equal parts of heartbreak and anger in a single moment, but it’s what I am feeling as of late. I haven’t been quiet on these topics, but I have not been loud enough. There is no silver lining to this story. The world is bleeding and we need more love, understanding, and action to heal. For all the victims and their families, for anyone who feels threatened by these horrific events, to all my friends that are being forced to re-evaluate their person: I am with you.
Humama Khan is a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia where she is studying Psychology. She is a Muslim American of Pakistani descent and researches multicultural issues. Along with being a researcher, she is a social justice advocate. You can follow her at
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