22 July 2013

Things that make me angry...part one

I've been wanting to write about race for a few days now and spent so much time worried about "form" that i was not getting "content" on paper...i have more to write but this gets it started...things that have been making me angry recently...

1) The Zero Sum discussion of Trayvon Martin and issues of "black-on-black" violence. If I hear another person tell me that I'm choosing to focus on the Trayvon issue, while turning a blind eye on the "prevalent black on black crime. This presupposes a bunch of things that annoy me. 1) That black people don't know there's a crime problem where black men are getting killed. We know that. We've been LIVING it for quite some time. And we DO mourn those deaths. Just because YOU ALL see those deaths as "Standard Operating Procedure" and don't see the need to discuss these stories in the media, and when they are publicized, they're seen as not "news" as it happens all the time. You don't get to criticize me for not caring and then dismissing the stories when they do happen. 2) Presupposes that my mind isn't complicated enough for complex thought: why can't i recognize that blacks boys being killed at a close to the rate of death for troops in war AND recognize that Trayvon Martin didn't deserve to die and his killer doesn't deserve to be free?  3) that black-on-black crime is some sociological determination unique to the African-American experience. There's lots of black-on-black crime because there's a lot, and i mean A LOT of INTRA-racial crime in the United States, in fact most of the crime is intra-racial. And by the numbers, whites commit more crime than blacks- this means we should be hearing about ALL KINDS of white-on-white crime. But yet, we never do. "My complexion is my protection" some might say of this. So, please, for the love of all that's holy, STFU about this black-on-black crime. If you're looking for a new word, try this one: CRIME. 

2) Crime Evaluators by Race. I've been told my whole life, as many African Americans have been told as well, that you represent MORE than yourself in your interactions with people. I've been reminded in no uncertain terms that the things I do (and subsequently, DON'T do) will reflect not just on me, but that everyone who meets other black people will use what I did to aid in their opinion of blacks in general. In short, I carry the burden of black people in all of my words and deeds. This is a SHITTY PROPOSITION for a kid, or really for anyone. This is all rooted in the idea that the default mechanism on black people was a negative one, and that anything any black ever did would be ascribed to you, and personified onto you, as if you were the actual perpetrator. When Ma Dukes told me that, I didn't really understand and/or believe her. But as I grew older, I began to see the truth in these claims. Being pulled over by cops for "Looking Suspicious" with no quantification or qualification of the claim- leaving it to me to figure out why (odd that I might look suspicious in MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD but I digress). This is the weight all black people, but black men in particular have to endure. I'm a relatively small, short statured black man, and really even the frailest of people would find me the antithesis of intimidating if they were to see me in a grocery store or in line at the bank. But for some reason, when I'm outside, walking the streets of insert-really-any-town-in-America, I somehow become more intimidating, so much so that women feel the need to lock their car doors as I walk by (really, come fucking on: my desire to PULL YOU OUT OF A VEHICLE TO ASSAULT YOU is actually non-existent, and the degree of arrogance to think that's even a remote possibility is mind-numbing) and to cross the street when they see me (and then cross back once i pass- as if I don't see that- maybe she just crossed the street and forgot why she did- i guess it's possible? no wait, that's probably as likely as being stung by a jellyfish in a koi pond). But I guess I'm supposed to take all this into consideration when I interact with people. That's a lot to have to consider, and a lot of ground to have to give up- why should I have to give you the benefit of the doubt for your assumptions about me? Why should I have to alter my existence because you can't get comfortable in your own skin when I'm around? Seems like we just found out last week: Because you can use those assumptions against me, and to respond with deadly force if you feel the need, and the legal system will give you no recourse. 

By contrast, Whites get the benefit of the doubt. When James Holmes walks into a theatre and shoots up the place, or when Harris and Klebold go into Columbine High School with guns blazing, or when Jeffrey Dahmer kept the remains of some of his kill victims in the freezer for consumption at a later date, nobody ever even THINKS about applying those examples of depravity to the society as a whole. They assume that the cases of white crime are anomalies, mere blips on the radar screen, with no overall tie to each other, By contrast, every negative action black people do is attributed to me upon sight, and then it becomes my affirmative burden to DISPROVE their claims, to disarm their negative interpretations of me before they can project in a way that causes me harm. The ability of whites to dismiss their negative actions and the ability to categorize the collective actions of blacks makes it easier to 1) make blacks the TARGET of more police actions- if every black you see is possible of doing any negative action you can project on them, and whites are evaluated as innocent until proven guilty, then OF COURSE you'll have more blacks in the criminal justice system- also probably explains why white arrests outnumber black arrest by a 2:1 ratio, but more blacks are serving sentences than whites. I guess if LOTS and LOTS of whites are being falsely arrested but ALL blacks that are arrested are guilty and that's why they go to jail, that would justify those numbers. But when you say that sentence aloud, it becomes how obviously inane that statement is. 

3) Colorblind isn't actually colorblind: When you say you want a colorblind society, that hurts me, for a couple of reasons. 1) I'm black/don't let your privilege shine too bright.... Your choice to evaluate or not evaluate that is largely irrelevant to my experience and/or choice to not evaluate that. I have no choice but to be black, and the IDEA that because you want society to be colorblind will ACTUALLY make it colorblind is folly. All you succeed doing in this attempt is to ERASE my color in your attempt to be blind, and requisite experiences i've lived through because of these things, 2) i like being black, and those experiences are integral to who i am. you don't get to just tell me that, to make your lives easier, that my lived experiences shouldn't be evaluated. These things are hard to deal with, but learning about these experiences would make a crisper connection between people. In a colorblind society, the things that make me different and unique are my experiences, but the LIVED experience is so similar that the more you talk to people, the more you find out you're more similar than different. It's THESE moments that allow for people to create empathy, or a connection and ability to recognize someone else's experiences as your own. It's the driving force behind the cultural shift toward the acceptance of homosexuality- as people began to know more people in their families, immediate friend sets, etc, it became harder and harder to deny rights to people that have specific faces you can conjure up. When we don't have these conversations of race, we can't have conversations that give us access to each other and to make those connections from "arguments" to "people"- and it's really hard to deny rights to people- but 3/5 of a person? Much much easier. 

More on empathy and privilege later...