Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Musings on Ferguson

Here I am again, livid, blood pressure raised because a cop was not indicted for killing an unarmed Black youth.  I thought it admirable that his family requested calm regardless of the outcome but didn’t think it could happen if grand jury didn’t indict. The rage would be explosive. What do you do with it? Where does it go? We’re been trying to manage our rage for decades now but it’s still an active volcano that periodically erupts.

I remember times I wanted to erupt—being pulled over by the police at least half a dozen times, when I was riding in a high-end car with a brother between New York and Washington, D.C. No reason. We weren’t speeding.  It was that old if a Black man is driving a nice car he must be doing something illegal thing. I remember every time police for no reason other than my color stopped me on the street. The first time I almost blew it. I’d been going to school in the northeast for eight years, had forgotten the necessary yessuh response required in the South when you are stopped by a white policeman. Luckily I was with a friend who interceded, replying with the prerequisite deference. The other times cops stopped me on the street I was in New York, in my own neighborhood, a place where I’d lived for more than a decade, where everyone knew me. This was during the Giuliani years. Several people of color I knew choose to leave New York rather than live under his oppression.

But I was stopped, at most, a dozen times. One of the young men profiled in PBS’ documentary Black and Blue, part of Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America Series, had been stopped and frisked more than a hundred times. Young black man, never been in trouble, going to college humiliated in front of professors and friends. His mother knows that he’s a power keg after these hundred degradations. Every time he leaves the house at night, they have the talk. The one that white parents don’t know about, where you tell your child not to let the white cop make him lose his temper.

Uh uh, it doesn’t matter if he has no reason to stop you. …  Let it roll off your back when he calls you out your name. … And control your face. Don’t be rolling your eyes.

We shouldn't have to have these conversations with our children. They shouldn't have to protect themselves from people whose salaries we pay.

You want our response to a decision that we perceive to be getting away with murder to be measured—only express your displeasure non-violently. But let me ask you this--is shoot to kill a measured response when an unarmed youth charges?