Friday, August 15, 2014
Michael Brown: When Will They Stop Killing Us?
When I first heard about the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri I had no reaction at all. I just went numb. I think my heart was so broken by the death of yet another unarmed black man by the police that it would not allow me to feel anything at all, afraid I would collapse completely under the weight of grief, rage and the sense of helplessness. I was reading another article about the situation yesterday and I finally broke. I burst into tears at my desk at work and had to run to the bathroom so I could have a moment to grieve in private. As a black man I cannot help but ask the following questions. Why do white people hate us so much? What did we do to them? Slavery wasn't enough. Jim Crow wasn't enough. Lynching wasn't enough. Depriving us from economic opportunity and forcing many of us into ghettos is not enough. Now we must also be shot dead for walking down the street. When will they stop killing us?
I've heard some people blame the militarization of the police for the shooting of Michael Brown. Indeed, this is a major problem, but let's not miss the obvious here. As militarized as the police have become, when's the last time you've heard of an unarmed 18 year-old white teenager being gunned down by the police? Michael Brown was shot dead for being a black man in a country that is as racist as hell and has been from it's very beginning. America does not have a race "problem'; America in its very nature is racist and the denial of this reality furthers its perpetuation. Claims that events like the shooting of Michael Brown are isolated incidents are absolutely absurd. Was the genocide of the Native Americans an isolated incident? How about the African slave trade? The war against Mexico in order to steal land and enlarge the US? Jim Crow? Lynching? The massive rates of incarceration among black people today? The murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and John Crawford?
Am I to believe that all of these are isolated incidents that are not connected to one another? Absolutely not! The shooting of Michael Brown is nothing more than the continuation of the subjugation of people of color this country was founded upon and thrives upon to this day. A racist country produces racist police. It's simple to understand. And until the average white American acknowledges the fact that the very foundation of our nation is built upon the refusal to acknowledge people of color as full human beings, the racism will continue and people of color will continue to pay the price. Your denial is killing us.
Racism killed Michael Brown. Racism that refuses to acknowledge people of color as fully human. Racism that says people of color are to be humiliated, exploited and kept in their place. Racism that says all black men are dangerous menaces to society who need to be locked up or shot dead. Racism that tells white people to be afraid of all black people everywhere at all times. Racism that makes it OK to shoot first and ask questions later. It is this racism that fuels the American way of life and makes white privilege possible.
As a black man it is absolutely ridiculous and heartbreaking that I need to say the following in 2014, but hear me white America:
I am a person. Do you get that? Do you really get that? I'm fully human just like you. I am not a target. I am not a dog that can be shot down in the street for no reason. I do not exist to serve you or be subordinate to you in any way so don't expect me to be submissive to you. I'm going to say that again because you really need to hear this white America. I DO NOT EXIST TO SERVE YOU OR BE SUBORDINATE TO YOU IN ANY WAY. I am made in the image and likeness of God. My blackness is not a curse, it is a blessing. I will never apologize to you for existing, never.
We cannot talk about Michael Brown without talking about race. A racist country produces racist police. We cannot confront police brutality without confronting racism. And we cannot end racism in America without dismantling all of the systems formulated to deny people of color their full humanity. Until we do this all the police training in the world will not stop the lives of people of color from being sacrificed for the maintenance of white privilege one way or the other. As a black man in America I must return to the question: When will they stop killing us?
Following the Way,