Normally I’d be harping on what’s transpired this past week and reflecting on this month of madness that’s only going to be crazier in the new few weeks. But fuck me and my problems for a minute. Because I’ve got a bone to pick with law enforcement and America at large. Yes, I am referring to the recent news of how another coward with a badge has gotten away with literal murder. Philando Castile, my brother from across the country, was not betrayed by the system. You can’t be betrayed by a system that was never meant for you.
So my brother Philando was a victim of machinations that are seeking to retain the over 400-year-old narrative of dangerous black men that do dangerous black-man things. Things like obey the law and offer full disclosure to an officer with the assumption that the officer would not shoot him at point blank range. Scary black-man things like giving this humble public servant the intellectual space to conclude that somebody who had a gun in their car that was out to kill them would obviously alert them to the fact that there was indeed a firearm in the glove box. This was a series of events where it’s common place that the scary black-man would tell the officer in question to give them ample time to make an informed decision on pulling the trigger in clear conscience. A conscience spurned on not by profiling or racist thoughts pertaining to viewing my brother Philando as a lesser creature. No, no no. For the officer in question, his livelihood and well being was most certainty in jeopardy as Philando reached for his gun, not his identification. Clearly.
I’ve written poem after poem, editorial after editorial, thought piece after thought piece on this favorite past time of America. I’m written out. I’m tired man. It’s gotten to the point where this scenario is predictable and anybody with an iota of an attention span can write the future of these situations. I’m not shocked, I’m not saddened, nor am I angry. That’s all on various pieces of prose and poetry. I’m just disappointed now. It’s gotten to the point where the expectation is that police officers in these surly situations will get off scott-free. Sure he/she gets “fired” from the department in the public’s eye, but ultimately they just get transferred without much of a punishment outside of the inconvenience of relocation. Wallets are in-tact, lifestyles are in-tact, and nothing really changes except having to lay-low for three months until the outrage subsides. Just wait it out until some other cop kills some other black dude then they’re in the clear.
These killings aren’t new. Grotesque displays of force and unnecessary uses of brutality are endemic to areas that house my people. I’m just trying to understand how, per capita, my people are topping the charts for incarceration. People can be shitty regardless of ethnicity, but I can’t shake this feeling that we’re being set up for failure. How is it that you have (mostly white) people able to walk and utilize the legal faculties of this country after murdering a room full of innocents? Yet when a man says I can’t breathe over ten times, his cries fall on deaf ears and the choke hold tightens. I’m really trying to understand how fearing one’s life justifies sticking a gun into a car window then shooting someone 7 times at point blank range unprovoked.
I wish I could get out of things by saying I feared for my life. I’d be using that shit damn near everyday. Hell, my family would cash out on that. Four 20-something black kids is a factory for fear. Ignorant white people and concerned grandmothers are kindred spirits in this. Philando, Trayvon, Eric, Freddie, Tamir… they could have easily been me and my cousins. People would be marching on our behalf. Our families would be mourning our dead black bodies and posting our proud black faces on every social media outlet imaginable. Ignorant white people and Uncle Toms would be cursing our existences. They’d be using the same weak ass “He should have complied” arguments and “They’re all like that” statements to belittle our already value-less (in their eyes) images. They’d type our names on social media with a strike-through and copy-paste THUG in bright red letters under it. They would type in all caps, ALL LIVES MATTER with an invisible parentheses “(EXCEPT BLACK ONES).”
I’m conflicted as I walk down these Michigan streets and think about the same ambivalence I had in LA. I was witness to the raw anger and hurt of my people in a peaceful yet vocal protest. I connected with both sides of that coin: the desire for retribution through vengeance and the knowledge that violence would only favor a deck systematically stacked against us. Also understanding that inaction would convey feelings of being complicit. So I just internalized it all. What else am I to do? I love being black, I love my black people, and we are hands down the coolest people on the planet bar none. Everybody wants to be us when it’s convenient and yet these same people are nowhere to be found when it’s crunch time. Only eating when the sun is out, how novel. Loving the culture without the struggle is the MO of these vultures. Hot-n-Ready Cultural Appropriation, now with 100% less guilt!
I don’t know what to do now. Just like the trend for everyone and their grandma getting on this “Original Series” train courtesy of Netflix, cop-kills-black-person-gets-charged-then-acquitted has now become common place. The most dangerous part of this shitshow outside of the needless loss of black lives is the precedent being set by these trials and these juries. What precedent am I referring to? Oh I’m so glad someone asked! The pattern of police killing black people is bad, but not like jail time bad. I mean they might get suspended, but they’re still pulling in checks. And it’s only bad for a couple months then everybody forgets about it and you can do it again! Just don’t do it too much within the same year or they’ll go tear up their own neighborhoods. What’s that? It’s of no consequence if they destroy their communities? They’re only hurting themselves and the media will focus on that negative minority instead of the positive majority that’s seeking justice and fair treatment through their Constitutional rights to assemble peacefully? Hmm, well I guess there’s no real consequence after all.
I’m not a fan of regularly seeing or addressing this shit man. I’m really not. And it’s gotten to the point where I’m often on edge around law enforcement. Basically feeling like my life is no longer in my hands and that some pissed off jerk-wad cop can end it if he feels like it. The solution isn’t easy, but the steps are obvious: the enterprise needs to be restructured from ground up. When an organization that was founded on subduing non-whites first and poor whites second is doing what it was created to do, it’s foolish to be surprised. And that’s not to shit on the good folks out there in law enforcement doing their job to the best of their ability. Actually being public servants and all that cool stuff.
But what I will shit on is the complacency of good officers not correcting their less scrupulous colleagues. I understand that in a lot of situations it’s career suicide to go against the grain. “Never cross that blue line” a police officer friend told me one day. But if that blue line makes a community red-line, when does it get crossed? How many more killings will it take for more to stand against the apparent prejudice and profiling? Sometimes I feel like the pain isn’t personal enough for some of these mutes. A reality of the human condition unfortunately. In any case, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on both sides of the equation, but the police have a lot of work to do in terms of repairing relationships with communities of color. My initial thoughts when seeing a cop car or an officer shouldn’t be memories of fallen black men before me.