Twitter is how I first heard of the shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black, 18-year old, Ferguson, Missouri resident, shot multiple times and killed by a police officer. Yet another “shoot first, ask questions and apologize later” incident. Yet another unarmed black American killed. Another life taken too soon, a child snatched from his devastated parents who surely didn’t expect to have to bury their own son, the people whom are supposed to protect and serve their fellow citizens seeming more and more like the aggressor, the opposition. And still no answers. We still don’t know who shot and killed him as the police department won’t release the name of the shooter. Anonymous has other ideas though.
After days of escalating anger, violence, rumors and unrest, traditional mainstream media appeared largely to ignore it (MSNBC and The Washington Post, notable exceptions). This morning I awoke to hear my local San Francisco news station covering the eruption last night, followed by “Breaking News” from “The Today Show” about last night’s events, photos and videos resembling what Americans are accustomed to seeing in “those other countries” where war seem constant. “Breaking News?” This shit started going down days ago!
I know, I know…many stories are vying for our collective attention: the Ebola outbreak, the violence in Iraq, IS(IS), the Ukraine, the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, Syria, Gaza and the everyday ills of the world. But what happened and is happening in Ferguson and elsewhere in the US is important too. I’ve written about how I sometimes feel black Americans are still treated as second class citizens, the scourge of the US; how our voices too often go unheard, cries of racism dismissed with cavalier statements, “Stop playing the race card,” “Don’t be such a victim,” “You’re being racist [by recognizing racism exists],” or “Blacks needs to stop blaming whites for their problems! Take responsibility!” I’m so tired of having to explain to people that racism is still very much embedded in the soil of this country when evidence is right in our faces daily.
Yet, America largely still turns a blind eye when black people are suspiciously killed. Are our lives less valuable than those of other Americans, those with paler skin hues? Why is it that when a black American is killed, people want to play respectability politics? “Well, he was wearing a hoodie.” “He dressed like a thug!” “He threw up peace gang signs!” “She had alcohol in her system.” “He was carrying Skittles!” As if any of this justifies ending someone’s life. Discrediting the statements of eyewitnesses because they don’t speak perfect Standard American English.
I am angry. I am sad. I am tired. I am extremely bothered, but unsurprised that it seems it wasn’t until white people started getting hurt that the mainstream media woke up and decided to do their jobs.
I have so much more to say, but many others have already said so much, so eloquently.
Some folks on Twitter who’ve been doing some real work raising awareness and reporting on the story:
* Elon James White – On the ground in Ferguson; CEO & Writer, This Week in Blackness
* Feminista Jones – Instrumental in organizing tonight’s National Moment of Silence in honor of those victimized by police brutality; Writer, Contributor to Salon, HuffPost
This year’s election and the 2008 election have shown me a side of some Americans that I find abhorrent, disgustingand sad. I cannot say I was / am proud to call them all my fellow countrypeople.
At times I feel very unwelcome in my own country. I’ve worked and continue to work hard. Once I left my parent’s house to attend college, I was fully on my own. I worked an average of 30 hours a week while taking 12-15 hours a semester and still managed to have an active social life and hold leadership roles. I’ve struggled through jobs that I didn’t like or that didn’t pay well, usually both at the same time. I am an active contributor to American society. I volunteer my time, I give to charities, I give money to the homeless. I pay what seems like more than my fair share in taxes. Yet, there will still be people who look at me and assume the worst.
There are people who claim racism in America doesn’t exist anymore. We’re “post-racial.” That black people don’t have it hard. That slavery ended over 100 years ago and we should stop complaining. We’ll just ignore the Jim Crow laws, segregation in schools, and voter disfranchisementthat occurred after the end of slavery.
Ever heard of implicit racism? How about systemic orinstitutional racism and the far-reaching impacts of it on longstanding institutions like standardized tests that may be biased toward people of certain socioeconomic groups?
Or the influence of a teacher’s personal biases and the effect it may have on how well their students do. Or economic discrimination? Or implicit bias and how it affects how doctors treat their black patients? These are the less visible forms of prejudice, bias and discrimination that black people experience over the course of our lives that are easily overlooked by those who don’t walk in our shoes.
Sometimes it’s exhausting being black in this country. I even get angry sometimes. But, god forbid I’m angry or I’ll be seen as an “angry black woman.” I can’t just be angry: I’m black, female and angry. My emotions aren’t my own. They belong to a stereotype. But, more than angry it makes me sad. And sometimes I cry. I hate to admit it, because I’ve been told and taught not to show weakness, not to let ignorant, hateful people get me down. To live my life the best I can to prove people wrong. But, sometimes I get tired. It’s tiring feeling like you have to be the best, because if you’re not, someone inevitably will think, “Yep, just another lazy n-.”
Some people claim not to see color. That’s not helpful either. We AREN’T all the same and it’s disingenuous to pretend we are. Some people say, “Why are black people always bringing up race?” Because other people WON’T LET US FORGET IT!
If black people are only voting for Obama because he’s black, what’s motivating Latinxs, Asians and other non-Black groups have for voting for him? Are they color struck as well?
If you posit that black people are voting for Obama because he’s black, what does it say about themajority of white men who support Romney?
Why do some people assume that a black person would vote for Obama because he’s black and not because they’ve made an informed decision to choose him between a choice of two candidates? What does that say about the person who makes this assumption and their view of black Americans?
I thought the one-drop rule was supposed to be a thing of the past in this country? Yet, people still refer to Obama as black when in fact he’s biracial. Yes, I’m aware that he self-identifies as black. But, which came first? Other people treating him as a black person or him self-identifying as such? Do people forget that Obama is half-white? Can we be real and admit that people in this country still socially categorizes people based on skin color?
Will there ever be a time in this country where people don’t assume members of a racial or ethnic group will behave as one large block?
Can I just have an opinion on something or someone and not have someone attribute the reasoning for it to me being black?
Why is it that some people think whenever the topic of race is brought up by someone of color that they are “playing the race card?” I can’t speak for all people of color or all black people, but games with race aren’t games I care to play. If I bring up the topic of race, it’s not to play some damn game. I’m certainly not “winning” anything holding a black card, especially given the latest AP poll findings that a majority of Americans harbor negative views of blacks.
I have never claimed to be a victim.
I have a college degree.
I pay my bills.
I have never asked for a handout, unless you consider taking out student loans that are like an albatross around my neck for tens of years a handout.
I don’t immediately assume that anyone who looks at me oddly or is rude to me is racist.
I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. You try living in America as a black American for 30+ years and see how it changes your view of the world.
Americans watch black athletes play sports, listen to music performed by black people, laugh at black entertainers, but seemingly ignore the contributions of the hardworking black people in finance, law, technology, science, education and blue-collar jobs who are not in the public eye, but quietly work hard to achieve the American dream (whatever that is these days) and see little to no representation in the media.
We get to hear positive rappers like Common called a hoodlumjust because of his chosen career.
We get to hear Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States reduced to nothing more than her behind. It’s disrespectful. She is the goddamned first lady of the United States of America and you’re a Congressman. Why are you talking about her backside?
Is there a place I can live where people don’t make these asinine assumptions? Some place where I can just be Keisha?
There’s no hate in my heart. I love learning about different cultures, trying new things and opening myself to new experiences, which sometimes is scary and intimidating, but overall I think I’m a better person for it. It’s why I travel. It’s why my friends and I could model for a Bennetonad. I wish more people were open to experiences and people outside of their comfort zone.
Race and ethnicity should not be a taboo topic in a country like the United States where we truly have people of all kinds. Let’s not make excuses in the face of blatant or latent racism. Racism exists in this country, let’s not deny it, pretend it’s a thing of the past, gloss over it or act like only people of color ever discuss it. We’ll never get past it if people insist on living in denial and get uncomfortable talking about it. Instead of accusing people of “playing the race card” or living with a chip on their shoulder: think about it, engage in a dialogue about it and examine your own beliefs.
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.