Honors 2020 Alabama Civil Rights Trip: Malik Monteith ’23 Pens A Letter of Apology To The Unknown

Honors 2020 Alabama Civil Rights Trip: Malik Monteith ’23 Pens A Letter of Apology To The Unknown

Honors 2020 Alabama Civil Rights Trip: Malik Monteith ’23 Pens A Letter of Apology To The Unknown

Everyone took away different things from the Honors 2020 Alabama Civil Rights Trip. For Malik Monteith ’23, a Law and Society major whose family hails from Jamaica, it was a sense of sorrow for the black folks that came before him. His letter of apology—addressing the many unknown men, women, and children who experienced racial terror in this country, and still fought for his future and prosperity—acknowledges that he’s not really the person who should be doing the apologizing, but as he notes, someone should. “It's empowering knowing that this brave group of people—even in the face of cruelty and hate—worked so hard to make a positive change in the world,” said Monteith.

His letter

Dear Unknown,

            I’m sorry, but I don’t know any other way to address you. They took away your name before you knew what was really going on. I’m sorry that they came to your home. I’m sorry that they didn’t care that your mother and father loved you. I’m sorry that they didn’t know how much your family needed you. I’m sorry that you didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m sorry that you will probably never be able to see your family again. I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t be the one apologizing.

“It's empowering knowing that this brave group of people—even in the face of cruelty and hate—worked so hard to make a positive change in the world.” –Malik Monteith

            I’m sorry that they didn’t care that they were hurting you. I’m sure he didn’t know that he was twisting your arm so hard. I’m sorry that they beat you. I’m sorry you bled. I hope your body stops aching from the amount of times that they hit you. I’m sorry they made dogs chase you, and I’m sorry that they bit you. I’m sorry that when he looked into your eyes that he didn’t see a person. I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t be the one apologizing.

Monteith at The Civil Rights Memorial
Monteith at The Civil Rights Memorial 

            I’m sorry they put you behind bars and fed you food with mold and disease. They frankly didn’t care whether you were alright. I’m sorry that they demeaned you, humiliated you, and disrespected you. I’m sorry that they felt that they could do whatever they want to you. They shouldn’t have violated you like that. I’m sorry he came into your room and raped you. I’m sorry that he made your partner watch while he did it. I’m sorry but I shouldn’t be the one apologizing.

            I’m sorry that they called you ugly. I’m sorry that they teased you and pulled your hair. I’m sorry that they hated your skin, but thought it was fun to wear it for themselves. I’m sorry that they called your lips and your hips fat. Trust me when I say you are beautiful the way you are. I’m sorry they spit on you. I’m sorry that they pushed and cursed at you. I’m sorry that they just blamed you because they knew they could. I’m sorry that they came to raid your house in the middle of the night because they felt like it. I’m sorry that they killed your brother. I’m sure they didn’t know how much he lit up the room when he smiled. I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t be the one apologizing.

            I’m sorry that society says the following: your life doesn’t matter; your life never mattered; you aren’t human; you are ugly; you are a criminal; you have your own diseases; you are unworthy of happiness; you will never be good enough; you are animals; you are other; you are less than; you are powerless; you are nothing. Believe me when I say none of that is true. I love you, unknown. I love you with all my might. I hate that this happened to you. And I want to change it. I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t be the one apologizing. But the people that ought to be really sorry for what they did don’t care.

With Love,

Malik Monteith

P.S. Unknown you are a hard person to decipher. All the things I said are all things I heard about you. This was your life and what you endured. But I can’t tell whether you are a freed African taken from Africa, a slave on a plantation, a man or woman living during Jim Crow, a man or woman fighting for their civil rights, or the many men and women engulfed by the system of mass incarceration. I guess I’ll never know. I guess the system never changed.

 

Read more about the Honors 2020 Alabama Civil Rights Trip: