As I attempt to flush out my feelings, I do so openly for (hopefully) the world to see.
Being a black toddler, boy, teen, or man in America is (and always has been) to overcompensate. We’ve always been required to look as if we are as strong as our skin is. I recall talking to one of the charter members of my chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha on the night that my father passed. I, as the oldest, felt like I had to handle everything “like a man” at that time. Joe told me to be in the moment and to experience it and to allow my emotions to run freely. I couldn’t. I was stoic. I had to be strong for my mom and younger sister and brother. It is what I knew. That was Halloween. I didn’t truly cry until the following New Year’s Eve.
Six years have passed. Now, I am brought to tears much more frequently than I would like to admit, but for good reason. At 2:50 this morning, I saw the dash cam footage of the shooting of Philando Castille. I didn’t believe the brother could have been justly shot but maybe the jury saw something, anything, that justified the shooting of a man in front of his daughter (I actually wish these cops would have a legitimate reason so that I could have some hope). Nope. All I saw was a more painful display than that of the Facebook Live footage; a display that involved two armed officers, a black man who was doing everything in his power to comply with the law while speaking calmly in a situation where he was truly the one who should’ve been fearful and ready to unload seven shots into the chest of his murderer, and, most the troublesome part, a little girl who ran from the car her daddy lay mortally wounded in. While composing this, Microsoft said that I should revise the sentence because it is long but all of this happened within a short amount of time. This is appropriately one extended sentence.
I see these things, after hearing of acquittals, and I must go back to interacting in a system that doesn’t only devalue my life but one that profits from my pain. This happens regularly, be it with an immediate consequence like the lynching of Jeremy Jackson or the hundreds of microaggressions I experience each week from America and Americans. Whether we’re focusing on the food deserts in black communities, which kill us from the inside out, or those politicians who fight to uphold mandatory minimum sentencing, which keeps slavery alive and well, I challenge the school of thought that says it’s better now for black people. No form of oppression is better, it’s just different. Actually, think about it: back in the day, if I wanted to avoid seeing a body swinging from the tree, I’d just avoid that path to work. Now, I am forced to see the image of Mike Brown’s body lying in the street for hours over and over again thanks to the mainstream media.
If that isn’t enough for your mental state of mind, we face a representation of our oppressor every day, unless we work/live in a vacuum of blackness. White people, even those on the right side, sad to say, you are a beneficiary of the system that keeps black people in caskets or chains. It’s like me and meat: I hate the mass production of meat and how inhumanely it is done, but do I hate it enough to really go vegan? Not at this point. But I’m working toward it. Day by day, I’m giving up some of my human privilege. What is white America doing to give up white privilege? Are you becoming more and more knowledgeable on what laws that don’t affect you are being passed? Are you asking, when you buy that swanky new downtown apartment, who used to live in this community and did they choose to move? Are you questioning why your tax dollars aren’t reaching the underperforming schools, where they’re needed the most? And not only asking these questions but are you challenging your friends to do the same? No, because, just like me ordering a Five Guys burger is easier than going finding a vegan recipe on www.ICanYouCanVegan.com, making the choice to remain ignorant is effortless.
The cows don’t have to knowingly see me every day and know that I am a part of their system of oppression. They don’t know that I ate their cousin while they’re producing my milk. The chickens don’t know that I’m eating their eggs, which they hatched in hopes of giving life. Imagine how angry and/or depressed that cow and chicken would be, knowing that they can take no action against me, as a beneficiary of the system that profits from their pain and death.
But black people are not animals. We are human beings who are aware. Many of us are angry. Some of us are depressed. I am certain that a considerable number are both. And, just as your beloved forefathers eventually stood toe to toe with their British countrymen, eventually, we too must stand against our American oppressors. We are delaying the inevitable but, the beauty of that word is that it can only be delayed. It cannot be stopped. War is not the answer but America doesn’t want to change so the change must be forced. And I’m not necessarily advocating violence because it is not the only option, but it is the final one. I think that there are more effective ways to hurt America. Discipline displayed through strikes, boycotts, and black ownership will accomplish more than our bullets ever will.
Please prove me wrong. I want you to change. Because right now, in interest of my own people, I only see a few options and I’d rather die standing on my own two feet protecting my own than to bleed out in the seat of my car and traumatizing my daughter or to put money into the system that allows it.
And, for those who say you can’t oppose America and be a “good Christian” (because supporting slavery was such a Christ-like thing for the American people to do), I’m going to pray while I withhold my dollars, defend my family, or openly challenge the government. James 2:14-26.
Make rebellion a reality.