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Category: Black Lives Matter

The Thing About Black Men In This Country

The Thing About Black Men In This Country

The thing about black men in this country is that you were taught to be afraid of them. It’s the best kind of teaching, the kind where you have learned something when you weren’t even aware you were being taught. You didn’t know that every time you saw a black man playing the villain in a movie this was part of your lesson. You didn’t know you were learning when your mom, while driving with you in the car, made sure the doors were locked when she saw a black man nearby. You didn’t know when you watched Cops on TV, sometimes even laughing at it, that you were telling yourself, “This is how black men act.” You didn’t think, when you saw them rioting, that they damn well had something to be rioting about. No, by this time you had already learned what they were: Uneducated. Lazy. Thugs. Gang bangers. Drug users. Scary.  Sure, it’s fun to watch them play basketball, but you better cross the street if you see one when you’re walking home at night.

The thing about black men in this country is that they were kidnapped from their homes. Enslaved. Beaten. Sold. Names stolen. Kept from being educated. Kept from their families. Kept from earning wages. Hanging from the trees with less concern than the morning’s laundry hanging on the clothesline.

“But that was over 100 years ago,” you say.

“They need to get over it,” you say.

“If they would just stop harping on the past!”

The thing about black men in this country is that even when we told them they were free, that was a bald-faced lie. Freedom came in not being allowed to vote. Freedom came in being told where to live. Told where to work. Where to eat. Where to shop. Even where to shit.

The thing about black men in this country is we made sure they knew their place. We made sure they knew they were worthless. Made sure they dare not have the audacity to pretend they possessed any dignity.  “You keep your head down when you’re talking to me, boy.” We made sure they knew they could be falsely accused of the most mundane crime, and would still be handed over to the white man like some first place trophy from a catch-the-darky game.

“But, oh, that was so long ago,” you say.

“Things are different now,” you say.

“We have a black president!”

The thing about black men in this country is that they start out like the rest of us, loved beyond measure by their mamas. They turn into those cute little boys- you know the ones who prove how un-racist you are because you couldn’t possibly find them so adorable and be prejudice- then they grow up and get killed by the police. Or chained to a truck and dragged down a road in Jasper, Texas until their head snaps off. Or they get shot up by some white man because they invited him in to pray.

“They should just cooperate with the cops,” you say.

“You should see the statistics for black on black crime,” you say.

“But those white men were mentally ill!”

The thing about black men in this country is that we gave them the lowest possible standards for living and the highest possible burden for proving that their lives mean anything.

The thing about black men in this country is that we will continue to fail them over and over again, and then force them to take the responsibility.

The thing about black men in this country is that they cannot continue to live like this, stuck in this world of seemingly never-ending racism.

The thing about black men in this country is that we can, we must, do better by them. This country will not be whole until we do.

Today it is Samuel DuBose

Today it is Samuel DuBose

It has happened again. Another black life was taken at the hands of a white officer. Another black life. Another white officer. Samuel DuBose drove through town without his front license plate attached. He may or may not have had a driver’s license. He may or may not have had an open bottle of gin. The one thing he did have for certain was black skin.

Sandra Bland had black skin, but she also had a lit cigarette. Tamir Rice had a toy gun. Eric Garner sold loose cigarettes, Michael Brown stole from a convenience store and walked in the middle of the street, Trayvon Martin had a hoodie. And I can’t remember all of the others because there are too many names. So many goddamn names. And now they are all dead, and we are supposed to believe that they somehow brought it upon themselves, that somehow they were deserving of it.

These are the things we will hear and we know we will because we hear them every time it happens:

They should have cooperated with the officer.
We don’t know the whole story, we weren’t there.
Those poor police officers. They have such hard jobs.
They’re just playing the race card.
You’re defending a bunch of thugs.
Well, I heard he/she smoked weed, didn’t pay child support, was on probation, and any other minor offense that is somehow supposed to make us feel better about the fact that these people were murdered.

I could not watch the video of Samuel Dubose being stopped, then killed. I haven’t watched any of the videos because something inside me just isn’t capable of handling being witness to that. But today I listened to NPR as they recounted exactly what happened in detail and I pulled my car over and I wept. I don’t know why I wept so uncontrollably this time. After all, unlike the other cases, this officer is being charged with murder. I’m just not ready to claim that as a victory, though; it feels more like a fluke.

It’s going to happen again, and then it will happen some more, and I am angry and sad because I don’t know how we stop it. I don’t want to tell my daughter this has happened again because I fear already, at eight years old, she has become desensitized to these kinds of stories. And really, why shouldn’t she be? It’s dangerous to be desensitized, though, because that leads to not caring at all, and frankly we already have enough of that. So again I will sit her down and talk to her. She will know Samuel DuBose’s name. She will know that even though he won’t be the last, we will continue to speak out against these injustices; we have to be the voices for those who have been silenced.