When I was younger I had stereotypical notions of Texas being the most racist state in America. The Deep South still has a terrible reputation but more recent research I’ve done on America’s racial climate brought Massachusetts, and Boston in particular, to the forefront. As I was looking through an article detailing Boston athletes’ comments on Boston’s racism, I came across this comment:
“I used to think that maybe I’d let my anger serve as an engine. But I’ve since discovered that my anger over each new racist incident is now rivaled and augmented by the anger I feel when asked to explain, once more, why black people shouldn’t be brutalized, insulted, and killed. If you’re a person of color, the racism beat is also a professional commitment to defending your right and the right of people like you to be treated with consideration to an audience filled with readers champing at the bit to call you nothing but a nigger playing the race card.” Cord Jefferson- The Racism Beat
I originally read this article about a year ago, at a time when I was starting to publicly share my thoughts on race more frequently, whether through YouTube or this blog. Many of my videos concerned the overlap between film and race, two of my greatest interests. However, many discussed issues such as racial profiling. I remember hearing about the verdict for the Trayvon Martin case back in 2013. Although I knew about notorious incidents of police brutality against blacks, such as Rodney King, I was shielded from this particular manifestation of racism for some reason. I experienced racial profiling numerous times growing up, such as always being asked “do you live here” when I walked around the courtyard of my apartment building in London, England. Or when a flight attendant insisted I use the bathroom in coach, instead of the first class one that I had the right to use since I was sitting in first class. I’ve also experienced the more subtle forms of racism e.g. “you’re smart for a black guy”, “you speak so well” etc.
Hearing that a neighbourhood watchmen took it upon himself to kill a teenager, because he “looked suspicious” infuriated me since I knew that teenager could have been me. I have had people cross the street or pull their loved ones closer seeing a 6’4, threatening black man come their way. I always wear hoodies, especially when it is cold or raining (like it was on the night Martin died).
Back in 2013, it was a shock to see Zimmerman acquitted. I thought he would be charged for murder, or maybe manslaughter as a worst case scenario. There were numerous comments defending him online: Martin was a thug, all these people talking about racial profiling are “race-baiters”. Like the Trump election, I wanted to believe that these people must be a loud minority.
They weren’t a loud minority. They were the voices of resentful, racist whites who would say anything to justify the death of a black person. They would say that the liberal media shouldn’t vilify the cops. They would say we need to wait for the facts of the case. Then these people would donate $500,000 to officer Darren Wilson before the trail began. There is no desire to let the trial speak for itself. People’s minds were made up once they saw who got shot, and who shot them.
The shooting of unarmed black men doesn’t faze me as much as it used to. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I’m used to it now. I’m used to the police testimonies, the online comments saying that black people would be better off if they “just obeyed the law” and the host of other excuses that rely on racist assumptions.
A part of me worries I could be on the list someday. Maybe I am walking down the street in an area that is deemed too nice for me, and someone reports me for my presence. Maybe I am driving a car that is too expensive to be mine. Maybe I threaten a cop’s ego by showing him too much attitude, maybe I reach for my wallet and end up dead. What then? I become a thug, another black guy that just couldn’t follow orders.
The fact that I am educated would probably be ignored by a lot of people. They would point to pictures on Facebook where I am dressed in hoodies, drinking, throwing up “gang signs”. Maybe they would bring up conflicts I had with previous landlords, one of them a divorced bylaw officer who was on a power trip (Abdulkadar Mohamed “Mo” Dualeh): He would say I was a troublemaker, aggressive, confrontational. I can be whatever they need me to be. People will lose track of the fact that the trial isn’t to determine if I was a saint; it is to determine if the cop had the right to shoot me at a specific moment and time. The gofundme money would start pouring in for my killer, giving him more money than he could ever hope to make as a cop. My death would be unfortunate, but not a crime. Some will be outraged. They will be called “race-baiters,” “social justice warriors”, or whatever new terms people come up with by then.
I will leave my family behind. They will be confused and angry, but that won’t matter. They’ll be powerless. The cop might lose his job but he’ll have enough money to buy a new house and start a new life, just like Darren Wilson did.
“Heard about Philando Castille and Alton Sterling shootings and I’m not even surprised anymore. Let’s see if any of the cops are actually punished for it, or just end up getting paid vacation and a bonus through a gofundme like Darren Wilson did.”
I posted this status to my personal facebook page earlier. Honestly, I know I should be full of rage at the two police shootings of unarmed black men this week, but I think I’m sadly becoming numb to them. I already know all the excuses the apologists are going to throw out.
“The one guy was a sex offender anyway.”
Of course people think someone has to be a saint to live. No one is saying Sterling was an upstanding citizen. The question here is did he deserve to die at this point and time. Was anything he did at that point and time worthy of execution. He was not a known criminal who the police had the authority to kill on site, or someone who was already wanted in connection with another crime. Trayvon Martin may have been caught with weed at school, but that doesn’t convert to being deserving of death when buying arizona and skittles. We are dealing with human beings, not checklists.
“We don’t have all the facts folks, let’s not jump to conclusions.”
A good principle, but often not applied well. Even in the case of the Walter Scott, where there was a video showing Scott get gunned down in the back by a cop, people still used this excuse. Even when we see Castillo strapped into his seat, with a seat belt, and bleeding out, people will still say we don’t have all the facts and can’t judge the policeman prematurely. Castillo was pulled over for a BROKEN TAILLIGHT. He has no criminal record. There was no warrant for an arrest. Castillo told the cop that he had a gun, which he was licensed to carry. The cop told him to put his hands, up, then told him to get his identification. Then shot Castillo when he got his identification. You can hear the panic in the cop’s voice. He is meant to be calm under pressure, well trained. I don’t see that reflected here. I see a jittery man who is panicking more than Castillo’s girlfriend is.
I am grateful that she recorded the incident, because if she didn’t I am sure there would be a lot more people assuming Castillo deserved to die.
People generally think it is okay to assume the victim was guilty, but it is not okay to use the evidence at hand to argue that they were likely innocent.
“White people get killed by cops too, why do we have to focus on black people? That’s race baiting”
If people would be bothered to do a two minute google search, they would see that black people are killed at a disproportionate rate. 31% of police victims, while we are 13% of the population. Those numbers don’t add up right? Maybe apologists will say we deserve it. Do you think Castillo deserved it?
“The cop in the Castille shooting sounds scared and sorry.”
That doesn’t change what happened. A crime was committed, and being remorseful does not mean that the cop should walk free. That isn’t how the legal system works.
“Not all cops are bad.”
No one is arguing all cops are racist or poorly trained. However, there is a growing trend (as evidenced by statistics, not just news coverage) and it is time that a cop faces consequences for his actions. Additionally, changes need to be instituted for better training for policemen and less profiling. A stop for a broken taillight should not have escalated to the point where a cop shoots someone four times. Especially if Castille advised the cop that he has a licensed firearm.
I’m pretty sure some or all of the officers involved will have money donated through a GoFundMe campaign and there is a good chance that some or all of them may be acquitted or face little jail time for their crimes.
Our anger, our “prayers” mean nothing. We need real action. We need to see accountability in the system. If not, this will keep happening. More outrage will poor out and nothing will change. Apologists and gofundmes will reign supreme.
“How’s the kitchen coming along?”
“Great, I think we have enough to renovate the basement too. I’m so happy they’ve finally started paying you more. Especially since you lost your job.”
“The money’s not from the police station honey. After I killed that kid, someone started a GoFundMe account. They raised nearly half a million dollars for me!”
“Really? We got this place before the trial though.”
“Yeah, they gave me money to cover our trial expenses.”
“Doesn’t that mean they assumed you’re innocent?”
“That’s awesome! I was thinking that we could start a garden in the back too, and I think a shed would be really useful too. We have any more from the GoFundMe?”
“No, after the move, the trial and the renovations we’re pretty much out. Still have to be grateful that people gave us all that money in the first place though. It’s nice to be appreciated for taking out deranged thugs. I mean the kid stole cigarettes, cold blooded psychopath right?”
“Yep. Any more people like him around?”
“Now that you mention it… there’s so many people like that in this area. I mean, a lot of them are black.”
“Lazy thugs, gang culture.”
“There must be some more big guys among them.”
“Hulking brutes. Unlike my two hundred and thirty pound husband, who also has a gun.”
“Some of them might do weed too.”
“Dangerous, unpredictable drug addicts.”
“A lot of them are probably poor too and have a bunch of teachers and cops who don’t believe in them.”
“I think we’re sitting on a goldmine dear.”
“Yes we are. I’ll get some overtime at the station. Make sure I do more patrols. If I see a kid wearing a hoodie, it’s going down. ”
“You could get a white guy too right?”
“Hmmm… not a safe bet. White people are at the top of the list, then dogs, then blacks are at the bottom. Never forget that.”
“I won’t. Go out there and make America proud.”
“I will honey.”