Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dallas Thoughts

I am appalled by Dallas. Not as much, I admit, as when the white kid opened fire in a Black church killing nine people last January but horrified. Nothing justifies this—shooting random policemen to protest police brutality against Blacks. The President said this attack was vicious, calculated and despicable. I’d add one more adjective, understandable.

There’s no contradiction here—understand doesn’t mean I condone, just that I know where this comes from. And so do the rest of you. Brutality against African Americans by law enforcement, especially Black men, has been going on since we were stolen from the Motherland. It’s institutionalized in the U.S.

Things are better; a whole lot better than it was when I was a teenager. But it still happens. Every adult African-American can recount a time when someone in law enforcement disrespected or harassed them just because they were black. It seems to be happening more since we elected a Black president. And even with video evidence from phone and body cameras no one’s punished. At least nothing that’s commensurate with taking a life. There’s no way the punishment can fit the crime when in some states feeling threatened is the only justification a policeman needs to take a human life. Police brutality is given impunity for the most part. Which is why we still have “the talk.” The talk where the guardians of African-American youth warn them that police officers may view them prejudice.

And yes asshole-Giuliani, we know Black youth face a myriad of dangers in the world. And we, their elders, warn them about all that we know of, not just possible mistreatment and harassment from law enforcement. But this one is particularly odious because it’s from people who are paid to protect us. People paid with our tax-dollars. We also know all cops aren’t bad but since you won’t police your ranks the few bad apples control the narrative.
50 years ago my mother had the talk with me. It was the day I got my driver’s license. Was the one blemish on this celebratory day that gave me access to the world without an adult chauffeur. “Yes sir,” Mama made me say again and again until she was satisfied with my intonation. Not subservient like Stepin Fetchit, or arrogant like Muhammad Ali. Knowing that 50 years later we still need to have this talk infuriates me.

This morning I heard Cameron, the son of Alton Sterling who was slain in Baton Rogue by a policeman last week, urge protestors to express their outrage over his father’s murder “the right” way. He spoke against violence. Wasn’t angry. Hopefully he’ll have a different relationship with law enforcement, one that won’t cause him to grow into an angry Black man.