31 August 2014

This racism is STILL killing me inside...

I'm a pretty smart guy, but the initial connection between Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and the and the embarrassment that is the Michael Brown tragedy totally slipped right past me. The scenarios vary, but the conversation, as well as the Terminal Discussion stayed the same, despite the passage of 25 years and America's post-haste move into the Post-Racial era.

But wait: didn't Obama end racism by being elected? This is for a later date. But the question that always get asked is this: Why is the response to an unjust action a bigger story than the story that lead to the response?

1) We all have varied social locations. Who you are, where you're from and how you're brought up colors (pun totally intended) how you look at a given situation. If you're an upper middle/upper class white person, chances are your interactions with the police have been, at worst, neutral. If there were actual negative interactions, chances are, you did some shit wrong- and even these interactions with the police vary substantially from those of, well, really any black person, regardless of age, job or socio-economic policy. I enter every interaction  I have with the police like it's LIFE or death, because, when it's all stripped away, every police interaction i have CAN BE life or death. The second reason is, although harder to articulate, but is equally true

2) They don't give a fuck about black people.

I don't mean the average everyday White person, although i suspect that, in general, this is true as well, but instead it's the Institutions: our government, our police- who don't give a fuck about black people. There are many, many, many examples of this. but the one that sticks out most (and with Garner and Brown in the minds of most, I'll take you on a different, albeit no less spectacular.

Most people hope to never be arrested- we hope to never find ourselves handcuffed, in the back of a police cruiser. But if we did find ourselves in that situation, we'd like to believe that, at a bear minimum, there would be zero chance that we would not make it back to the police station for question. That, once in police custody, you were safe from any external threats. If you're white, it's a very reasonable to assume you could be arrested and not be shot and killed in custody.

Only problem: This didn't happen to white people.

Louisiana illustrates this point well: last week some previously held information came to light that an African American man from Iberia, LA, "committed suicide" in the back of a police vehicle. By shooting himself in the back. While handcuffed.

Let that soak in for a hot second.

If the story stopped there, with a black man committing suicide in the back of a police cruiser while handcuffed, that would be a really hard sell- how did he get the gun from the officer? Was there just a gun in the back seat? How did he maneuver to shoot himself in the back? was the trajectory consistent with the claim?

Really, just boils down to: do i really look that fucking stupid?

But remember, we've already indicated the story does NOT end there. But what could make this story more outlandish? What would make this more preposterous?

Well, after the autopsy was completed, it was pushed under the rug for 6 months (and historically, we never hide things that could help us, and we also don't hide things that don't hurt us). When the information of the autopsy came to light, it became apparent that something was missed- that a mistake was made in the initial procedure. Upon closer examination, it was disclosed that he was shot IN THE CHEST, as opposed to in the back. This is devastating news- this means that, at best, the police lied about the procedure and at worst, we're looking at criminal malfeasance and and anything necessary to cover it up...

it's at this time i feel the need to state the somewhat obvious: when your hands are cuffed behind your back, it is impossible to shoot yourself in the chest.

I know I shouldn't have to explain that- it's obvious. Idiots all over America have no idea why I needed to explain that- clearly if your arms are behind your back and you're handcuffed you would be incapable of shooting yourself (for a fun experiment, place your hand behind your back, lock your fingers and then try to place both hands at your chest- stop before you dislocate your shoulder though).

...so it's obvious that this was a mistake, the coroner will speak of the mistake and we can move on, hopefully, with the prosecution of the officer that, obviously is in the wrong....except, we're still not done...upon further investigation, the coroner determined that, because of his body habitus he was able to manipulate himself to shoot himself in the chest. Because body habitus makes you into Stretch Armstrong.

To give a fuck about someone is to have some degree of empathy for them: you may never be able to be sympathetic but the ability to understand someone else's feeling is critical for advancement at all facets in society. It means that when bad things happen to someone that isn't you, you can feel their pain, and thus it becomes easier for you to help with solutions, as you can imagine what you might need in a general situation. it also means you would be willing to ask for help: as someone that has needed more help than i can allow.

also, when you give a fuck, you notice this: Black people and white people have FUNDAMENTALLY different views on issues of race, and it has to do with having a DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE than that of white people. It can be classified by the killing of Josh Crawford and the other four unarmed black men shot in the US in the last 4 weeks. Crawford was in a 22 year old boy who just happened to pick up a BB gun at a Walmart and was "accidentally shot"- Eric Garner, proving that Jay-Z was incorrect- you CAN knock the hustle- to the point NYPD choked the piss out that man. These are just small examples of the lack of transparency on these issues- and how we need to have these discussions aloud to facilitate any true change.

So when people ask "why are they protesting?" because it's their right. I think I have an answer: this isn't an isolated incident: it goes from emmitt till to amadou dialo to rodney king to michael brown is a long free-flowing time line- and since i see theses as a series of the same event, it 1) mean i'm not sick and/or being around this many people doesn't make me sick. I protest because killin a black man has to be seen by SOMEBODY as a problem, one worth resolving. I protest because people still believe that blacks living in their neighborhoods lowers property values and education levels at the schools. I protest because a white family that makes 100k a year can live wherever the market allows them, whereas a black family that makes 100k a year can live where you're allowed to live, but you 1) won't live around people that make the kind of money you make, and 2) you'll live around white people who make considerably less than you do.

They'll be on the first White Flight to Outer Loop Suburbs, which is how things like Ferguson started in the first place....

Since I started writing this blog this morning, I have had an interesting day, in which i got up at the crack of dawn (lets not front, we were up an hour and a half before dawn) and went with my wife to the Disney Half Marathon- she ran, I spectated. One of the big things is people like to get into costumes and run- something I'll never understand. As I'm watching and waiting, a black woman runs by, dressed as Snow White (sans dwarves). An older white couple in front of me makes a backhanded comment about the woman: "She can't wear that, it's Snow White, not Snow Black (a comment he was quite proud of). Apparently, he had no idea that anyone black was even around). Upon hearing this, I tapped my hand on his shoulder and asked him "why shouldn't i just punch you in the fucking face?" Seems there should have been a better way to resolve this in the future, but as of today, me threatening to knock someone out did the trick.

Here the kick in the junk: this dude was a douchebag at about 615am, and it's now 430p. And i felt I handled it with grace and diplomacy. But the kicker is that i've needed all day to get the fact that this guy was a d-bag out. I remember a day when someone else's stupidity had to be curbed, I just made fun of them and then ignored them. But now that I teach HS, I can't blow off stupid things that ADULTS say because I have to let what KIDS say to me slide- I can't get MAD at a student, so all those times I used to let adults slide, now i can't- and the level of stupidity as MIND NUMBING- it's exhausting.

Dealing with the weight of racism is actually exhausting- in the same way carrying 2 30 pound bags with you everywhere you go. And that is why...