Monday, April 27, 2015
Not Even a Mule
My country. I always say that. I have no ownership and had no hand in its founding, but I feel bound to and responsible for it just the same.
My country is in shit shape. And it seems to be getting worse. Or better. I can't decide? Lately things have finally been coming to a head. I find it equally humbling and devastating. The Trayvon Martin murder seems to be the starting point, at least in my mind. More than just communities of color were offered pause. Every once in a while my country is given an opportunity to see what kinds of injustices communities of color have to endure. But it wasn't ever enough to make most people take a deep enough look at what was wrong. Injustice was a truth. Injustice was unfortunate. Injustice was forgotten.
But Trayvon Martin really started something different in American discourse. This was not just a child. This was a child who was doing absolutely nothing wrong. He was literally walking home from the store and a 'citizen' who was exercising his legal right to 'stand his ground' decided that this young black man was walking in a neighborhood where he had no business being and he murdered that child. And then America got to see the killer of this child go free. And then my country got pissed. Finally!
Killings of unarmed black men seemed to then happen frequently. And by law enforcement. It was as if out of nowhere police officers were acting out against the communities they were meant to be policing. That's pretty stupid, huh? It wasn't out of nowhere. It hadn't just started. My country just started finding out. Those in the communities who were being targeted, of course, have known all along. But no one was listening.
To write this blog I wanted to find the number of unarmed people of color murdered by police since the Trayvon Martin tragedy. I wanted to make sure I didn't forget any that I wanted to address. Apparently, even though I am very well informed about what is going on in my country and watch the news every night, I have been ill-informed about how large that number was. Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26, 2012. From that date, through Dec 2, 2014, 37 unarmed people of color have been murdered by police in America. And since then? It seems like we are hearing of a new one every week, doesn't it?
Since America's settlement, white men sailed to Africa to steal its citizens. They were enslaved. They were forced to build this country. They were raped. And beaten. And murdered. In my country, children are given that as a matter-of-fact in history class, tested on it, and moved to the next lesson. Yep. It happened. Betsy Ross made a flag, too.
In the 1860s the slaves were offered freedom and then an Amendment was added to the Constitution to define their rights to their own bodies. During Reconstruction, freed slaves were told they would get 40 acres and a god damned mule. They received neither. They were told they were free and offered no means to build on that freedom. Millions of people were given absolutely nothing and nowhere to live and no means to provide for their families. And that was defined as freedom. Many ended up remaining as slaves with no money or property or means of migration. Opportunities to build from that place were few. As was true then, it is still true today. America doesn't have enough bootstraps to go around. And people refuse to acknowledge that.
Communities of color have always been punching bags for white America. They have been offered as the excuse for all issues imaginable from war to poverty to taxation. White America created the problem and then demands that its victims fix it themselves. Until white Americans get the fuck over themselves and offer everyone the equality in law and in respect that all human beings deserve, how can anyone be expected to rise? The truth? The basest among us don't want them to rise. Those base level human beings like to have others to condemn. They like to have someone that they see as being lesser than they are. But do you know what base? By virtue of attributing someone's value beneath your own, you are the lesser person. Every time. Period.
When the information about Freddie Gray was released on the news, many of these base individuals had the same reaction on social media. "Great! You know they are going to riot now." Really? Do you think "they" are going to riot now? It is not common to see riots. And whenever these riots have happened it has not been out of nowhere. Riots have not been unprovoked. Riots have always happened when the injustices are so blatant and still unresolved that some people (not all as your pronoun 'they' would define) just lose their shit. I dare say if societal roles were reversed, this whole country would've gone up in flames a long time ago.
You want to talk shit about an entire community who every once in a while stands up in a violent manner when their frustrations reach a boiling point? Let me remind you of this, motherfucker ... You are forever demanding first and foremost that your country allows you a means of defending yourself and maintaining your right to bear arms. You are forever demanding that we remember your right to build a militia to raise up against your country if you ever feel your rights are not being adhered to. You are always itching to raise militias for assholes who want to burn children and families in a cult or who want to use protected American lands and not be penalized for it. Not only do you prove your profound ignorance by supporting only the craziest of people, you prove your desperation to rise up in rage to demand the legal outcome you think is fair. But you think the black community doesn't deserve to rise up when innocent men are killed by authority. Your militias wanted to rise up against the entire Federal Government for Waco. And Ruby Ridge. And Cliven Bundy. And NAFTA. Really?
I saw on the news this morning that the Bloods and the Crips were going to join together in Baltimore and not against one another. The story said that the same thing happened in Ferguson. There's nothing lovely about gang violence, but unity is beautiful. Especially because these kids who are so angry and have been pointing it back at themselves for so long finally feel strong enough to unite and point their anger where it belongs. I am certainly not saying that police and businesses are the enemy. But society, as a whole, is.
Society, in 2015, which accepts murders of unarmed black men deserves to have its ass kicked. Society, in 2015, which anticipates a calming down after each of these men are murdered and people move on, deserves to get its ass kicked. Society, in 2015, which does not hold its media accountable for neglecting to report on the many more murders of unarmed people of color by police officers, deserves to get its ass kicked. Society, in 2015, which embraces any police force with repeated violations against its citizenry, deserves to get its ass kicked.
Maybe this will be the last time. Maybe this time enough people will ask themselves the right questions and not point their outrage to the television screen at angry strangers whose needs have been ignored for centuries. Maybe this time Americans will ask themselves why this continues to happen and acknowledge the truth behind the question and their own complicity in its endurance.