Slavery in the United States lasted about 240 years. The lynching era lasted for 70 more. And now, in 2016, black people are living through a second struggle for our civil rights: we’re asking for independent investigations, body cameras, more rigorous police training, and a minimum affordance of personhood. We’re asking for something very simple that sometimes feels impossible: for the nation to be compassionate, for the nation to recognize our humanity.

Every time another black person dies at the hands of police, it feels like we’re slamming into a wall. The state and white supremacy have perfectly crafted yet another tactic to keep us scared and compliant. As with lynching, it’s less about the total loss of life—though the numbers are horrific—and more about the constant state of fear it breeds, audible and visible in the way Philando Castile’s girlfriend refers to the officer who just shot her boyfriend as “sir.”

Even when we channel this fear into work, they hate us. We raise funds for victims and they raise more money for the killer cops. We push for accountability and they tell us a child deserved to die.

I can continue to vote and go to protests and sign petitions and donate money and get in arguments with racist white people. And I can write. I can write again and again for as long as the this nation piles up black bodies. But when you’ve just watched a man bleed to death after a routine traffic stop while a child sits in the back seat, it sure as hell doesn’t feel like much.