Young Charlotte girl’s speech about police shootings will bring everyone to tears

In the wake of North Carolina police fatally shooting Keith Scott, a young black man, the city of Charlotte descended into unrest and confrontations between law enforcement and protesters. The shooting of Scott added fuel to an already contentious dialogue around the issue of racially charged police brutality in America, and on Tuesday, Zianna Oliphant tearfully spoke about police brutality at a Charlotte City Council meeting, the first council meeting since Scott was killed.

CNN described Zianna as a “young girl,” “petite in size, with braids in her hair and hearts on her T-shirt.” Despite her apparent young age, Zianna’s emotional testimony made eye-opening points about racial injustice in policing, and whom these far too frequent shootings are affecting: black youth.

Zianna first declared that she’d come “to talk about how [she feels].”

“I feel like that we are treated differently than other people,” she explained. “I don’t like how we’re treated … just because of our color doesn’t mean anything to me.” At this point, Zianna began to cry. “We are black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel like this. We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to, and we have rights.”

She continued:

“I’ve been born and raised in Charlotte, and I never felt this way till now. And I can’t stand how we’re treated. It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed and we can’t see them anymore. It’s a shame that we have to go to their graveyard and bury them and we have tears and we shouldn’t have tears. We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side.”

Zianna’s words were met with appropriately strong applause from those in attendance. While speakers before and after Zianna similarly called foul on how Scott’s death was being handled, Zianna is importantly being regarded as an important symbol of black youth and how they are being affected by police brutality.

The many nonpartisan statistics about how differently black and white Americans are treated by law enforcement aside, the truth is that discrimination, whether by school officials punishing bad behavior or cops who see black kids, who are often perceived as older and more dangerous than white kids, as dangerous thugs, starts from an early age. Black teens are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than white teens, the latest research has found.

Zianna, a young black girl, certainly made it clear that despite her young age, she already feels she is treated differently because of her race, and this has to be addressed. But Zianna’s ultimate message at the council meeting was that so often, black men and women disproportionately persecuted by police are fathers and mothers, and the effects police brutality has on their children can’t be ignored.