I want to thank my friend Kay for letting me share details from our conversation. I also first heard the term “Fergustan” from Kay. Though this article does not touch on the Ferguson protests, it is evident that the state has violated the constitution in terms of the first amendment. It is the initial responses of the police (seemingly ignored by the media) that first spurred chaotic rioting. Secondly, I apologize for not writing this with a more global context as it was me quickly putting my thoughts on paper; I also wanted to keep the focus on America. Furthermore, my definition of Blackness primarily refers to “African Americans” but “blackness” is not exclusive to only this group.
Thoughts from August 21st 2014:
Friends and Facebook friends (lol), I’d appreciate if you would take a moment to read my thoughts (or my essay). I promise this is not a rant, or at least not by definition:
To my black friends who are trying to make this a race war, an “us against them” mentality, please don’t be so quick to lump a group of people together. I know plenty, but not enough, of white allies who continue to speak out against oppression and who have been actively involved in speaking out/demonstrating against what’s been happening, as it pertains to deaths by unarmed black men in different parts of country (I use perfect present tense like this is all new. We know better, black and brown people have been and continue to be targeted by the police). Whatever your feelings on the issue, Michael Brown’s case is not an isolated issue and stop treating it as such. It is also not a race battle, but it is a racial issue. It is also a human rights and civil rights issue.
Had a great conversation with my friend Kay yesterday. Kay and I reconnected earlier this summer after attending the same elementary and middle school in S. Florida; our paths have diverged since. Kay attended an HBCU (Historically Black College/University) in Florida whereas I went to a predominantly white elite institution in Maine, and thus, our perspectives are very different. We talked about how though these two institutions are as different as night and day (pun intended), each drew us closer to our Blackness. As a black person (or any racial group), going to an HBCU or a PWI will more often than not put you in touch with your identity. Kay and I both feel strongly about police brutality, particularly as it relates to black people and men. After someone on her FB wall tried to pin me as a black conservative (lmao, still laughing) because apparently hanging with people from other backgrounds means that I am passive about what’s been happening, I told Kay to give me a call.
We talked about how many people in the world every day deal with oppression stemming from race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc.(Racism even exists amongst individual racial groups as many cultures have a light skin/dark skin complex. We can thank European imperialism for that). I believe that we all (except maybe White straight Anglo Saxon Protestant males in America, sorry if you are a part of this group and feel left out) have different experiences of oppression and histories that we can learn from and that can also help us connect to one another (the situation in Gaza definitely highlights that). That I also believe that having honest dialogue and actual conversations between each other is how we grow and how we will get past racism, or at least allow us to constructively deal with it. Racism will always exist in some form or the other (I suggest everyone read Racism without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva if you haven’t already). All of this discussed, we agreed that as a racial group, Black people (or on a different scope, Native Americans, who are an “invisible minority”) are at the bottom of American society and when intersected with poverty, our situation is even direr. We talked about how unlike many other groups who have immigrated to the United States in the past, Black people will never be able to achieve “Whiteness.” (As black people, we can try to come close to it, stack degrees, stack paper$$$, speak “proper,” dress “proper,” and even reach stardom but we will never get there. Ask Oprah about her experience in a luxury store in Switzerland. Ask Forest Whitaker who was falsely accused of stealing and illegally patted down in a Morningside Heights’s bodega in NYC).
It takes a lot to ask a White person to acknowledge this. We all want to believe in this idea of meritocracy, that if we work hard, we can get anywhere we want no matter where we hail from. We talked about why more white people (and other people) who disagree with what’s going on don’t stand up and say something. We talked about people not wanting to be judged and not wanting to stand out. Even if as a white person you’re not racist, why would you want to change a system in which you benefit from? (You benefit from it whether you realize it or not). She told me about one of her white friends who adamantly disagree with Michael Brown/Ferguson and uses Kay’s FB page as an outlet for her feelings but she, herself won’t actively post/demonstrate/tweet/whatever because it makes people feel uncomfortable. I don’t blame her for not wanting to stand out; after all, it’s human nature. (Quick reminder, not all white people!!!).
This idea of being “uncomfortable”… Most people usually just choose to avoid these situations. It”s why for the most part, we are still segregated around the country. Furthermore, many people who this situation does not directly affect are choosing to ignore it as it makes them uncomfortable. Kay and I then talked about addressing situations when we feel “uncomfortable.” To ask ourselves why? Is there a valid reason, or does it come from subconscious biases within? We talked about being deliberate and challenging our personal biases. I then told her about the time in college when I was playing video games and finally went to pick up my phone off the floor (I had dropped it earlier but was too busy to pick it up) and a student (white) who had just previously walked into the dorm room jumped at this. (Mind you, I was dressed a lil’ “urban” that day, cuz sometimes I just like to put on streetwear and listen to Jeezy and reminiscent of how I grew up). When his friend asked, “What’s wrong.” He responded (without thinking of course), “I thought it was a gun.” I’m glad he actually said it though. (Many ppl will “jump” at blackness and make an excuse for it). I’m sure this kid is not a “racist.” We all like to think of racism in binary. You’re either racist or you’re not. But the truth is, we all have subconscious racist and other forms of biases within us from past experiences, stereotypes, and the media (but oh boy, don’t let me get started on the media and its portrayal of black people).
It’s these forms of micro-aggressions that get me the most perturbed. I could really care less about Donald Trump, Donald Sterling, the dude who threw the Dunkin Donuts munchkin at my group the other week, and these other forms of racism committed by extremists. It’s the subtle shit that gets to me. I always did prefer Southern (in your face) racism over Northern (subtle) racism (ok, this paragraph is borderline ranting, let me shift back to focus). Also, just to be clear, I don’t condone any type of racist acts whether it be subtle, overt, or munchkin throwing.
But really, what if this dorm room kid was a cop (I was unarmed and he had a gun)? Darren Williams and the other officers who killed black males this past month may not be “racists.” But best believe, racial biases were at play. I could go over stories of black friends who have been antagonized by cops, arrested and beaten in jail, or have even had guns drawn on them during traffic stops. I have a few stories myself. I am thankful that none of these stories have been Michael Brown stories, or any of the black men who have unjustly died at the hands of cops. It’s not to say that every black person who has died at the hands of the cops was not at fault but far too many were not. And, as a society, we’ve just ignored it. Police systems need to find a better way, and should be very conscious of this in majority black/brown neighborhoods. This is definitely a complex problem. I believe we can first focus on demanding that our police departments reflect the neighborhoods they serve and maybe have community days for police officers to become a part of the neighborhoods they serve.
For there to be actual institutional change with the police system, and not just due process in one case, we (black people) need allies. It is not our battle to fight alone but an American battle. It involves more than just agreeing that this shit is crazy; it means being active about it and not being afraid to voice your opinions. No need to start big. There are little things you can do. Start by liking this status. Haha But honestly, go through the links below (I don’t quite agree with the titles as I feel it should be things all people should be doing). And for those of you who have already been doing some of these things, awesome!!!!
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” – Desmond Tutu