When I was growing up there were a few things I developed a fear of: Flying, swings at playgrounds (that’s another story worth hearing about how irrational this fear still is), swimming, sleeping without something covering my feet thinking something will touch them at night, whippings and being kidnapped. I would have nightmares about these things happening to me. It was only as I got older that I started to overcome those fears; I’m learning to swim, I learned that the statistical probability of someone kidnapping a non-wealthy Black child is very low… like very, very low, and I haven’t ‘deserved’ a whipping since 5th grade.
However, those fears have been replaced by others like, not being able to pay my bills, having one of my students make-up a lie that gets me fired, and encountering an Officer at anytime that I might somehow decide to exercise my rights. I’ve kinda avoided writing about all that is going on because so many people are already doing that and being way more eloquent than I think I can be. However, I realized that no one can be as eloquent about my own fears as myself, and that my non-Black friends and family might want a perspective that is closer-to-home or coming from someone they may trust.
Let me not shy away from my experiences: including non-Black women clutching their purses or crossing the street while I was walking down Commonwealth Ave while attending Boston University, being followed in stores, and being disrespected by white customers while working at Rite-Aid (formally “Brooks”), as a Shift-Supervisor, by Fenway Park (a tear rolls down my cheek as it has since closed).
Let me not mince words: I’ve had interactions with people, whom I even come to love, who had assumptions about how I would or should act when I first met them; that I must be a “model” Black male since I have both a BS in Economics and Ed.M in Math Education. However, me being racially categorized as Black, doesn’t necessitate me “acting” culturally Black (to fulfill stereotypes YOU or others may hold). This is what makes my skin-tone so unique, that Black as a race has been defined to hold onto a culture! White Americans can walk down the street and I hold no, I mean none what-so-ever an expectation that they should fulfill a cultural archetype because I get that being “White” is only a racial identifier, and not an ethic classifier. I get this because the “Black” community is so diverse: Jamaican, Bajan, Haitian, Cape Verdean, Trinidadians, African-American, etc. YOU may even hold these same truths for people racially identified as “White” because their cultures reflect Italy, Ireland, German, Isreal (Jewish), and etc. decent.
Let me not lose focus. This is suppose to be my cathartic action of sharing what scares me being in America. I think my first glimpse into what my current fears are came in 1991 (I was a little over 4 years old) when I first overheard my father talking about Rodney King. It would be many years later that I would see the footage myself and think, wow, how did a high speed chase, with priors, turn into over 5 minutes of being beaten with batons after being tasered?
RULE#1: Don’t give an officer a reason to use force or arrest you: By instigating a high-speed case, driving drunk, running away from the cops, or getting-up when ask to stay down.
This would be my cardinal rule until I started making extensions following Henry Louis Gates in 2009.
RULE#1: “…”using disrespectful language or responding to disrespectful foul language with your own.
then another extension following Oscar Grant in 2009.
RULE#1: “…”or resist arrest while a cop is on your back and you’re face down.
another, Eric Garner in 2014.
RULE#1: “…”or debate a charge by police that you may have done something illegal that may lead to police not listening to your pleas of not being able to breath.
another, John Crawford in 2014.
RULE#1: “…”or pick-up an open BB gun in a convenience store and walk around on your phone because no one will ask you to put it down or ask if it is a toy (Tamir Rice), or hold a gun in an open-carry-state while being Black.
another after another, after most recently Charles Kinsey has me currently at this:
RULE#1: Don’t give an officer a reason to use force or arrest you by committing a crime, and if believed to have committed a crime remain silent, lay face down, put hands out, and argue for your rights and any dignity, if you’ve been wrongfully accused, at a later date.
My fear is being in the wrong place while living in our time. While this entry may seem to have a direct connection to supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement, that is not my goal. I simply (due to complex residuals from American History , red-lining, poverty, and my race) experience these news story differently.
Like how 9-11 feels differently to a New Yorker.
Like how the Boston Marathon Bombing feels differently to a Bostonian.
Like how Obama’s first election feels differently to a Black person.
Like how Obergefell v. Hodges supreme court ruling feels differently to the LGBTQ community.
I don’t share this to talk about politics, or to debate “shouldn’t all lives matter?”
Well, I guess I can say this: All lives matter when each and every American, on average, has equal opportunity to achieve and pursue their happiness. If we lived in THAT American, then the the racial breakdown of America would be proportionally represented in these average pursuits of happiness. That is just how math (statistics) works when all variables are controlled to allow fairness. This means, given the US Census (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/RHI125215/00) of 62% White (non-hispanic), 17% Hispanic or Latino, 6% Asian, 13% Black and/or African American, that those percentages should be what we see in racial breakdowns for College and University attendance rates, prison rates, elected government officials, police killings, and etc.
We don’t live in that America. So do the research, look-up those stats, then you will understand why the disproportionality of race and gender have given rise to social causes aiming for change. Aiming for fairness.
I currently walk the streets, to work, home, shopping, parks, T-Stops, Poke-Stops, mailboxes, and the like wondering could I live by my rule? Would I not speak my truth to my rights like Sandra Bland? Would I choose not to travel to cities that foster the KKK or Confederate Battle Flags (because I feel that differently too)? Would I need to become more familiar with my Miranda Rights than our Bill of Rights?
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the topic of “institutional racism” and “prejudice” continues to be a hot-button, when we have yet to stand-up, sit-down, or in some physical position, discuss these matters from a problem-solving lens. I don’t need anyone to feel any type of “White Guilt”(look this term up if you are not hip). I don’t need reparations.
I need more processing time. I need to explore my fears. I need to think, read, and share more about this.
Perhaps it’s just a phase, or maybe it’s just the way we are conditioned in America. But at one time or another the average person is afraid of the dark.