We rage because feeling powerless makes you want to burn something to the ground. We’re supposed to keep the peace, right? But white boys can create mayhem in the streets over a pumpkin festival and because their sports teams lost a game. No tear gas is sent their way as they do this. NONE. But WE can’t take to the streets because Black people are being murdered systemically. “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcolm X Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be able to think clearly and talk about what we need to do next to effect change. But today, I rage.
My generous child needs to see “black.” She needs to understand that those classmates of hers will go through life with a radically different set of experiences and fears that stem from the color of their skin. Yes, it’s a lovely notion that we are all the same, except we live in a country whose very foundation was instituted on the subjugation and continuing dehumanization of black people. She will never have to worry that the color of her skin will arouse suspicion. She will never have to worry that the color of her skin might get her harassed or, god forbid, shot and killed and left to bleed and die in the middle of the street.
How do we talk about race? How do we see one another as human, as having lives that matter, as people deserving of inalienable rights? These conversations are always so tense, so painful. People are defensive. We want to believe we are good. To face the racisms and prejudices we carry forces us to recognize the ways in which we are imperfect. We have to be willing to accept our imperfections and we have to be willing to accept the imperfections of others. Is that possible on the scale required for change?
Often anger is a manifestation of not being heard. The people of Ferguson, Missouri have risen after not being heard for years and the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death woke the sleeping giant. I am largely speaking for myself here, but I am more than aware that those of us in traditionally underrepresented communities simply want to be listened to. Last night all I wanted was for someone to hear me and know that I was hurting. Last night, a group of friends from all moments of my life participated in a civil, informative discussion.
Baucham claims that “it does no good” to change how police officers view black males if we don’t “first address” how black fathers treat their sons. This line is an example of the kind of strange false dichotomies throughout the piece. If, as many believe and has historically been the case, some police officers stereotype and abuse black males because of their race, it objectively and empirically does good to change those officers’ views. Even if you accept the claim that black fathers must become better fathers in order for substantial change to take place in black communities, there is no reason this must take place before addressing systemic racism.