I haven wanted to write commentary on the racial unrest that happening in this country (again). I feel like I should be writing something. I just find it so hard to do without getting angry. So I ask for a little tolerance as I just spill it out as I think it.
I know there are millions of out there in this country where we never will know each other, billions who will never have a direct impact on my life. Yet there are so many who do and will impact my life in a positive way and I do not want wash all white people and cops with that oh so broad, us versus them, paint brush. Because yes, I do have friends who are officers and I know them to be the good guys we were taught to believe in as tykes watching Sesame Street and that they do exist now that I am well into my adulthood. And yes, I really do have friends who are white, who have jumped to offer succor when I was going through a rough patch in my life, as I have in theirs. I know they are not the bad guys because I have gotten to know them. They know I am not they bad guy, because they in turn have come to know me.
Regrettably, it is of little balm when at the beginning of this summer I am on the street attempting to hail a taxi and the driver slows in my direction only to blatantly pass me by to pick up the white couple maybe 30 feet further down from me. When that same couple who knew I was there before them looked at me, shrugged, opened the door to the cab and got in anyway. It is of no balm when I have to force myself to stay positive when I learn a month ago my son, who walks dogs part time, was detained by an officer because “some random citizen called the cops” while he was walking a client’s dog. Never mind that he had a key to the building to have access to the dog. Never mind that the dog clearly knew my son, he is accused of stealing said dog. Why? In the predominantly white neighborhood of his client, my son did not look like any of the tenants. Because clearly my child, yes he’s a thirty year old adult male, but as all mamas understand he will always be my child, as a black man could not possibly live in that neighborhood and own such a dog in his own right, right? Riiiight. My son is stuck explaining himself to the unbelieving officers until a neighbor of the dog’s owner happened by and vouched for him. It was something very simple that ended well, no harm perhaps, but very foul. Still as a mother, I could not help but be cognizant, yet very grateful, that this confrontation did not go in a very different direction. I am also very cognizant and very pissed that this event came to fruition solely because he was literally walking a dog while black. It is of little balm to the litany of racial acts subtle, such as the taxi and dog incidents mentioned above, or more overt as so recently demonstrated in the news, that is a constant part of my existence as a person of color in this country.
A few years ago I was once told by an erstwhile friend that I see race in nearly everything and that’s just not the way it is. I in turn accused him of blatantly choosing to see race in nothing and that’s just not the way it is. How does the saying go? Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Names like Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Stewart, Yusef Hawkins, Anthony Baez, Rodney King, Patrick Dorismond, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo and James Byrd Jr., come far too easily to my mind’s history. Yet each new flare-up – Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Marlene Pinnock, Eric Garner and now Michael Brown, proves even knowing the history does little stop it from repeating. It is as though there has become this unspoken understanding that murdering blacks and calling it self-defense, or justifiable/in the line of duty is supposed to somehow dissolve the racial hierarchy in this country. So who has the right of it?
Is any of this anything new in history, the realities of living black specifically? Honestly, no. As a culture, the majority of us have lived with this as a sub routine of sorts in our consciousness on the daily for a couple of centuries now. When it was one person’s word versus another, most of such news was quickly buried under the burden of no real proof. Until it was something so bad, that it made national headlines. Can you say Emmitt Till? The advent of so many with smart phones now, able to immediately capture and then upload images/videos has helped. And social media, for all its foibles makes each occurrence captured readily available to the general public and national headlines sooner. Yet for all that we hear about, we all know that there are so many others whose names will never be listed.
I hope that this is that stage in history repeating itself, that this is the worst that it will get, and things are soonish going change for the better. I want to have hope, I really do. Because not to hope means that more names will be added to that ever growing list. So even as I hope, please understand as I pray in the interim that the names of my loved ones and I are not to be among them.
I am glad to count you as friend. No, I’m never going to see things through the same filter you do, though it is a filter just the same- I think of the many times taxi incidents like you describe have happened to me. I always assume it’s because of my size. And it certainly is, a good portion of the time, though any individual occurrence might be something else- like perhaps the taxi driver thought he’d get a better tip from a couple. and the couple’s reaction may just be that they are jerks- that they would take any opportunity to come out ahead. But sometimes, even often, it’s exactly what we think it is. I used to be troubled and confused over all the reported racism. I didn’t live it, it didn’t occur to me. Then I moved to SC for a year. Ouch. Then I married a man who was visually a target. I’m still troubled, but I’m no longer confused. I was horrified at how often my husband attracted negative police attention, and just as appalled that once they understood that I was his wife, they backed off. It happened over and over. Just as in many things, I don’t think people can really understand unless they have lived it. And I haven’t lived it, I’ve only witnessed it. I’m very sad that humans so often lack humanity.
Oh Q, if only we all could have such insight without having to personally live through or witness such examples to understand it. The world would be a much better place.
glad to see you from my facebook page