Reflections on Ferguson, Michael Brown, and the Larger Problem

Outrage. Fear. Anger. Can I be surprised it happened again? Can I be surprised that it will continue to happen? Probably not. Can I still be enraged when these things happen? Yes. And I always will.

Michael Brown, from what I’ve been reading, has been gunned down by a police officer. And he was an unarmed teenager. Plus, he had his hands up in surrender. People are angry and it is all rightfully so.

This is something that is not new. From what I have read there is a black person killed by police, security guards, or vigilantes every 28 hours in America. Every. 28. Hours. Let that sink in.

Sometimes I struggle with what to say and how to feel. I float between heartache and anger regularly. It makes me physically ill when I think about it and then I get angry at myself because I live so far away from home. I feel helpless.

The most I can physically do is sit at my computer and read through horror story after horror story of what is escalating to a fever pitch in the heart of America. And this isn’t even the only person who has been killed by police in the last 2 months. Three other folks whose names should be on our tongues are Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, and John Crawford III. Dead. Unarmed. Life snuffed out by an officer of the law.

I am not blaming cops for everything. I feel that this is systemic and it is something that is poked and prodded by the top. By history. By fear. By expectation. Police officers are given weapons to control others. This instills fear. This instills distrust. It is said that we are to feel safer because of this. So, do I think that cops are 100% at fault? No. Do I think that cops are poked and prodded to believe this image of the system that was created? Absolutely. Do some individual cops suck at life? Yes. Are cops probably scared as well when they get in these situations? I would bet highly on it. So, I think we need to step back our weapons because by making them available in the first place they become an option.

Japanese police officers carry night sticks and I feel safer in Japan than I have ever felt at home. I am not afraid to walk alone at night. I am not afraid that I could possibly be shot in the street. But I know that at home I always make sure I am aware of everything around me and I don’t walk far at night alone. And I am white. So, my problems are at the bottom end of the spectrum. I can’t even begin to comprehend what real fear must be like.

When I was young I never thought about race. My parents never discussed it and even in school I didn’t understand what this concept was. I definitely didn’t think about what advantages I had because I was white. I went to college as a naïve 18 year old. I had no idea. So, I started listening and observing. Systemic racism is real. Racial profiling is real. White privilege is real. I’ve seen it in action and I’ve heard stories from friends about it. I’ve even experienced a few (although tiny) things myself. And yet, white America is blind to it. Due to white privilege we can act like it doesn’t exist and for the most part it really doesn’t exist for white folks. Our lives will continue to go on. We won’t need to feel fear that our children may not return home at the end of a day. We won’t have to worry about the possibility that we didn’t get a job due to our race, but solely due to our qualifications. We won’t need to question the motives behind being pulled over by a police officer. Hell, we don’t even need to worry about tear gas attacks happening in our neighborhood because the police won’t be gunning down children in our neighborhood. Why do I use we? Because no matter how much I read, discuss, or act I am still white and I am still part of the collective privilege recipients.

I truly believed in the “Yes We Can” mentality back in 2008 and truly believed we were moving towards a new beginning. Who knew this new beginning would start ripping the band aid off of the so-called forwardness of our nation? We are at a crossroads. Are we going to finally sit down and discuss what the real issues are or are we going to continue brushing things under the rug by calling them “isolated incidents”? We have never atoned for our past and by doing so have created this environment where folks feel that things are bright and shiny and beautiful. It could also be that we’ve created suburbs to re-segregate the nation so we don’t have to interact with black folks which in turn makes us believe these problems are not real. We consciously segregate ourselves to make it look like a black on black problem. How wrong we are. As Americans this falls into collective responsibility. We need to man up and deal with it.

Michael Brown, I hope that your unjustified and untimely death can become a beacon of light for our future. For your sake and your family’s. Rest in Peace. #DontShoot #HandsUp

Black History Month 2011-Day 16

Hello everyone. This is one that is not the best Black first, but it is important to note. I could not find much more information on this film, but I hope you find the information on the history of Blackface interesting.

Day 16- “The Wooing & Wedding of a Coon”

The Wooing and Wedding of a Coon is the earliest known American-made film with an all-black cast came out in 1905. A derogatory one-reel film, it presented undisguised mockery of black life and featured the first movie version of a “coon.” One of the most insulting black caricatures, the coon (a short version of raccoon) depicted the person as lazy, inarticulate, easily frightened, and a buffoon. The caricature was born during the slavery period and reflected the masters’ and overseers’ view of their slaves as “slow,” “lazy,” and “trifling.” Hollywood films as well as minstrel shows did much to extend the coon image and to lay the groundwork for movies of the 1930s and 1940s that used the image.

Source: Carney Smith, Jessie. Black Firsts: Groundbreaking Events in African American History. New York: Fall River Press, 2009.

For information on the history of Blackface look here:

http://black-face.com/