My heart sank into the quicksand of anger and frustration. The very self-hatred that I hoped and wished my children would never experience had shown up to play. As my then five-year-old daughter buckled her seatbelt in the school pick-up line, expressing her desire to not be black, anymore, hundreds of thoughts raced through my mind. I chose to reply with a simple, “Why?”
“Because white is just…better,” she responded.
I don’t know where she got that from, but it wasn’t from me.
I know where she got it. It’s all around. It always has been.
Kids repeat what they hear adults around them say, and clearly, somebody at school had made an impression on their kid, who then made one on my little girl. I can’t put it just on this kid, though. Children are brilliant and perceptive and pick up on everything, and my daughter notices the environment around her. She hears the reports on the radio. She sees news and commercials. She hears the conversations. She sees the responses we get, as a super-sized, black family, when we leave the house. Black parents are left wondering exactly what to do. She asks hard questions, and we give her hard answers. But what are we supposed to do to feel safe and accepted in this land that is also ours?
Martin Luther King, Jr. proved that peace doesn’t work.
Malcolm X proved that non-compliance doesn’t work.
Neither does following the rules, as we learned in recent hours with Philando Castile.
Black people have had enough. Violence and prejudice against us, by those in power, is a reality that we all recognize, and as children, we’re taught how to try to avoid it. Then, when bad things happen, and people try to stand up, they’re called lazy for not being at work, or they’re told to get back in their place. Remember the Missouri college football players who stood up to protest against campus racism last year? All over my timeline, people called for them to shut up and do what they were there for—play football. Yes, please, do that. Be mindless entertainers. Act like you don’t know your rights. Let people call you dumb jocks. You’re here for one reason alone, and that’s to make people feel comfortable in your silence and watch you run up and down a field, once a week. I can’t help but wonder, would that sentiment have been the same if those athletes were fighting for gun rights or abortion?
Being black is work. It is constantly having to prove to the public that you’re not dangerous, you’re not an idiot who can’t accurately pronounce words, and you’re not looking for the next crime to commit. Most of us don’t commit crimes, but listening to the media and prejudices that have been instilled in the public since birth, you wouldn’t know that. It sucks to see the sigh of relief on the faces of our white counterparts when they realize they can let their guard down around us, because we’re not the kind of blacks who make them uncomfortable. Please know, we’re extremely aware that we must do this, because our society has been taught to fear us. Think I’m lying? What’s the main excuse cops use to kill black people? They feared for their lives.
Just like Michael David Dunn, the white man who killed Florida kid, Jordan Davis, because he felt like Jordan’s music was too loud. As Jordan prepared to drive away, he was fatally shot in the back of the head, because Michael feared for his life. The back of the head, y’all. However, in a rare show of justice, Mr. Dunn was sentenced to life in prison. If we will have more of the killings, we need more of the justice.
We go over and beyond to convince our daughters that they’re beautiful, because the world around us tries to teach them that not only are they incapable of beauty, but their lives have less value, altogether. Relax. Our loving our blackness has not one single solitary minuscule thing to do with your being white or any other shade. Nothing. It’s like you can love tacos without hating hamburgers. And we also don’t care if you declare your love for your own race. That is not what this is about. It’s supremacy and oppression we have a problem with.
My dad used to wear this shirt that said, “I Love Being Black.” I wanted it, but he wore it until he had to throw it away because it was thinner and holier than Bible paper. It’s important that we know it’s OK to love our heritage, our history, our hues. We’re amazing, and that amazingness goes beyond singing and dancing and carrying a ball up a field.
We’re intelligent. We’re professionals, entrepreneurs, and contributors to society. We are teaching kids how to excel in science, math, and engineering. We are mentors, role models, authors, principals and speakers. And contrary to popular belief, there are not more black men in jail than there are in college.
Statistics, and the emotions they evoke, humor me. Folks post gun stats and it’s, “Guns don’t kill people—people do!”
Those same folks post black-on-black crime stats, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “Blackness doesn’t kill people—people do!”
No, it’s the precisely the opposite. “They’re so violent—maybe they deserve the treatment they get!”
You know folks with guns, right? How many have killed someone?
Along that same vein, do you know folks with black skin? How many have killed someone?
The black-on-black crime argument makes me cringe, every single time. Encouraging black people to not talk about police brutality until black-on-black crime is non-existent is like saying don’t treat people with breast cancer until the colon cancer patients have been addressed. Think about that. Then think about why people don’t post stats on the intra-racial murders of other groups. While you’re at it, consider the amount of convictions and wrongful convictions (you’ll likely have to imagine these numbers based on the little bit of information we actually have, because these numbers are not available to us, naturally). I’m constantly seeing stories of black men who were released from jail after serving years and years for crimes—MURDERS—they didn’t commit.
In addition, when people talk about black-on-black crime, they always bring up Chicago or Crenshaw, or a few other specific locations. So maybe there’s more at play here than blackness. Maybe the stresses of location and environment? Mental illness??? What do we need to do to get the same benefit of the doubt? Or what do others need to do to get the same punishment?
Can we take an honest look at the color of crime, for a moment? During the discussion of whether we should allow refugees into the States, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings expressed that he was more afraid of being killed by a white American male than he is a Middle Easterner. People immediately lit into him like a flame to fireworks. I found it funny though, because I’d said the exact same thing the day before. Danger is all around us. It’s in movie theaters, elementary schools, high schools, and churches. Yep, it’s dangerous to ride around Crenshaw, but it’s also dangerous, randomly dangerous, to go watch the newest Batman movie. And which demographic is committing these random, large-scale crimes?
Something has got to give. Everybody needs to get mad. All the right and good people need to get mad. We don’t want pity; we want equality. Those of us who claim to love liberty and justice and say that it’s for all of us need to get mad, get up, band together, formulate a plan, and do what we can to ensure that ALL of us get to experience the same brand of American liberty and justice.
All cops aren’t bad. We know that. That’s not even the issue. But what is bad is the silence and protection that the good cops display when the bad ones screw up. Silence is bad. Silence is bad. Silence. Is. Bad. Stop backing a group because you’re one of them or can relate to them, and start backing what’s right. THAT is good. And this man right here put it perfectly, when he called out a law enforcement officer who wouldn’t say that overzealous cops are wrong.
“I want to be white,” my daughter said. I don’t think she really wants to be white. What she wants is to be accepted without disclaimers. She wants to feel safe and at home in her homeland. She wants to feel welcomed without first handing out a personality resume. She wants to be loved, like we all do. But we cannot feel love where we’re constantly reminded that we are not enough, and we do not matter.