Yesterday (5/25/2020) a man was lynched. His name, George Floyd. He was murdered by a police officer, Derek Chauvin. I won’t even ask why the police force allows individuals like him to join because historically those same individuals would participate in the KKK at night and patrol the streets during the day.
Yesterday (5/26/2020) a man, Christian Cooper was in Central Park and asked a white lady, Amy Cooper (no relation, possibly) to put her dog on the leash per park rules. Instead of apologizing, putting her dog on the leash, or simply walking away, this white lady in all of her privilege chooses to approach the man, get in his face then threatens him and calls 911. When she calls 911, she changes her voice to sound distressed and afraid making sure to mention the man is African American.
Let’s unpack Amy’s, aka Karen, aka Carolyn Bryant Donham’s actions. First, while alone with Mr. Cooper, she is unafraid, bold, in his face, trying to tell him what to do until she realizes her words, demands, and threats have fallen on deaf ears and why not, the Black man has done nothing wrong and has as much right to be in the space as she does.
Second, once Amy begins to feel defeat, determined to get her way, she calls for back up, her big brothers, her community, protectors, knights in shining armor, the police. Amy knows the history of the police and that their slogan ‘to serve and protect’ only pertains to her and people like her. She also understands there is a different slogan for Black people, especially Black males; ‘to stop and punish, sentence and patrol’ or attack and kill as is evident with George Floyd and Derek Chauvin and a massive list of other Black lives killed at the hands of law enforcement.
Third, Amy must change her voice from big, bad, and bold into fragile, unaware, and afraid when speaking to the dispatcher. Whenever the damsel is in distress her white knights (KKK) always come to her rescue. Such was the case with Emmet Till who was just a boy when he was sentenced to death by Carolyn Bryant Donham’s lies. There is also an extensive list of Black males who have been wrongfully convicted, spent years in prison or worse, killed based on a white woman’s, a white person’s lie.
(I feel the need to interject, I am not referring to all white women, or officers because I am not that shallow (although, I wish Black could get that same pass). However, one cannot argue with history, systems and the racial fabric of America)
To bring this closer to home and give you an idea of how early this treatment begins I want to share a personal story.
While my son was in middle school he was falsely accused by a white student each year. The first year was he took a white student’s hat but in actuality, he told the boy he needed a tic tac and the boy didn’t like it so he lied on him. My son was sent to the office and had to miss lunch. His father and I were not told about the incident until after school, after he had served his punishment. But, being the parents my husband and I are we immediately set up a meeting with the principal to introduce ourselves and to let her know we were not having it. Nope, not this Black male, or any other Black student if we could help it.
The second year he and another Black student were blamed for ripping posters off the wall. This time we were informed and was told they would have to stay after school for detention. Both myself and the other mother, unbeknownst to one another, spoke with our sons, heard their side of the story and when they told us they didn’t do it, we instructed them to come home (You have to know your children and their character). The next day video surveillance proved our sons had not destroyed the posters, in fact, it was a white kid.
His eighth and final year, after having proved he was an intelligent, kind, loving, athletic, well-rounded, Presidential award-winning, team player type of student, my son was accused yet again. This time, a white student said he thought my son had a knife in his locker. He was pulled out of PE by the school police officer in front of his peers, taken to his locker while wearing his PE clothes and socks where they found no knife but instead, school approved scissors. The school police officer then confiscated the scissors. Afterward, my son received a private apology but he had already been embarrassed in front of his classmates and made to look like he had done something wrong.
It didn’t stop there. In this predominantly white school district, they tried their hardest to tear him down, to wear him out, to get him to give up but it only made him work harder, thrive more. He ran for student council and won, tried out for football and the QB position, outworked everyone else, and won that spot too. He continued to excel in the classroom. But, maybe the final blow was when his guidance counselor tried convincing him that he wasn’t college material and encouraged him to try trade school (even though he had a 3.75 GPA), or when the new football coach gave in to the white parent’s disapproval and replaced him with a white QB, or when a parent/basketball coach cut him from the varsity basketball team while allowing a couple of white students who could not play half as good as he could remain on the team. It was like watching Mike Tyson annihilate his opponent one blow after the next as you see them slowly losing ground, going down for the count, hoping they don’t die. Thank God his story didn’t end there. He graduated high school and attended college but healing from that trauma would take years.
For so many, this information is old news, my son’s story is nothing new, we’ve heard it over again but that doesn’t erase the pain, the absolute trauma Black people experience as a result of the vicious cycle of racism. As I perused social media I read post after post expressing exhaustion, anger, fear, heartbreak, and frustration. I also read posts of people saying how there is another cycle that has to do with hearing the news, being upset, posting on social media, the government doing nothing, going back to silence then repeat. Another posed the question as to why Black people aren’t equally up in arms when killed by another Black person. Actor John Boyega tweeted “I really fucking hate racists’. Some of his followers argued he shouldn’t have said it, he has a lot of kids following him and so on and so forth. His response, “I said what I said’. There is this trend where a Black person speaks their truth and a white person thinks they have the right to challenge that truth, to ‘police’ our words.
Silencing Black voices, making us suppress our feelings causes physical, mental, and emotional sickness, leading to different forms of escapism. It is a strategic, systemic method that has been in existence for more than four hundred years. Sadly, some Black people have adopted this method as well when it comes to what they think Black people should and should not say. One of my favorite African Proverbs says, “Until the Lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter”. We can definitely see this throughout textbooks across America which might have something to do with why Europeans insisted Black people not learn how to read and write English. I want to clarify, we were not ignorant. We were like every other immigrant coming to a foreign land, we had our own country, we had to learn a new language. And, now that we have, some want to govern what we say and how we say it.
For now, I’ll say, you don’t get to tell me how to feel or how to express myself. Yes, you have the freedom to say, ‘don’t worry about it, pray on it, it’s going to be okay, take a deep breath and exhale, breathe, let it all out and just be grateful you’re here another day, not all white people are bad, not all cops are bad, try to understand, isn’t that a bit harsh…”. If that’s how you are choosing to deal with the current events right now, at this moment, that’s fine. If you want to smile and make jokes as a way to cope, I’m okay with that too but I have the right to be enraged, pissed off, upset, hurt, in shock, or whatever other emotion I feel. As long as I’m not physically hurting anyone, I also have the right to express those feelings without being ridiculed by my own people or anyone else. You don’t get to discredit my emotions and chalk them up to “nothing changes by simply posting on social media”. We all know that’s a lie.
Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in February 2020, his case was going nowhere until people on social media got a hold of it. Only then were his murderers taken into custody. If the Minneapolis or New York incidents had not been captured on video and shared a million times over, both the officers and Amy would still be living in their white privilege bubble.
I’ve heard the question of where is the Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X of our time. I would say they are everywhere. I am a wife to a Black husband, and mother to Black children, and although our story didn’t make national news my family fights for justice, we fight the systems put in place to destroy our people from birth through adulthood, it might just look a little different from the way you do it. To be honest, you don’t know what I’m doing to effect change in my own family, neighborhood, community, or larger platform, and to assume you do is arrogant on your part.
James Baldwin said, “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage”.
Some days my posts might feel unapologetically Black, militant, and relentless. Other days I may post something comical, light-hearted, unrelated to Black genocide but my rage never ceases. So, today, I’m feeling upset, exhausted, charged. Tomorrow, I’ll still be charged but maybe with more joy, hope, and love, always love.