In a perfect world, the color of someone’s skin wouldn’t matter but we live in an imperfect world where it very much does, despite the number of people who insist that it doesn’t. That stubborn insistence by many that race doesn’t matter is naive at best and dangerous at worst because it keeps us from working to create a system that for once wouldn’t condemn certain bodies from the very moment they arrive earth side.
Last fall, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down in a public park in Cleveland, Ohio, because a bystander saw what he perceived to be a Black man with a gun and called the police. Despite saying that Rice might have been a juvenile, the dispatcher didn’t quite convey that part of the message to the responding officers and a young child with a toy pellet gun was murdered by the people who are sworn to protect the public.
This weekend a statement was issued by Cleveland officials in response to a wrongful death suit by Rice’s family that claims that Tamir in essence caused his own death. “were directly and proximately caused by their own acts. . .,” and added that Tamir caused his own death “by the failure. . . to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
It would almost be laughable if there wasn’t a slew of dead Black and Brown bodies in recent years. Too many times the deceased victim is at fault for their own death, no matter what their age or circumstance. However we live in a time where there is a blatant double standard when it comes to race: a young Black child is perceived to be a menacing scary adult. Yet when a white young adult commits a heinous crime, they are painted with the fuzzy brush of humanity that almost excuses their acts of destruction. How else can we explain Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ending up on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine with an accompanying article that tried it’s best to humanize him? By the same logic didn’t Michael Brown deserve a cover too? After all Brown and Tsarnaev were close in age; actually Brown was younger and he didn’t kill anyone, yet far too many see Brown as a reckless thug who didn’t do what he was told.
Or let us talk about the young white child who on a family vacation in Arizona in the summer of 2014 accidentally shot and killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi. The accident was a tragedy but last time I heard, no charges were filed and the family was allowed to grieve privately. A few voices labeled the family reckless but overall the family which one might say exercised galactically poor judgment in allowing a 9-year-old girl to handle an Uzi was allowed to be imperfect in their humanity…just a mistake.
Having raised one child to adulthood, I am intimately aware of how Black and Brown children are denied their humanity, their innocence and their childhood. Too many of us feign surprise at these simple truths but this is a country that was founded on the stripping of Black and Brown humanity, where Black and Brown children were often separated from their families and made to serve and work. My own father was the child of sharecroppers in rural Arkansas in the 1950s and 1960s and the stories he has shared about the cotton patch and what the landowners expected of families (the whole family) aren’t tales based in the 19th century but recent history that is now lived as nightmares in the psyches of many older Blacks who are still upright.
When will enough be enough? How many tragedies must happen, how many think pieces and blog posts must be written for all lives to matter? Not as an empty slogan or the predictable “Ugh” or “Disgusting” that is the norm in social media spaces when these tragedies come to light but when will you be moved to take action? How will you do it or do you really care? These are the things we must ask ourselves if we believe that childhood and humanity is for more than just white bodies. Anything less is a form of mental masturbation and if that’s all we are going to do, we should just own that too.
4 thoughts on “The lies we live but do all lives really matter? Or no childhood for some…”
Of course and the cute little white boy with the doe-like eyes who aligned with his older brother to kill …is going to have the favor of many, many doubts in the opening trial as to his own responsibility in his implementation of the Boston bombing. He was shaped by that bastion of white privilege, Cambridge, MA and he unlike Henry Gates
. he will be protected by this community !
The most chilling as Gates harassment and arrest by Cambridge Police shows ….is that in their action Cambridge police were even to be protected by the White House ! The guise from the above post –“Gates was ordered to step out of his home. He refused and was followed inside by a police officer. After showing the officer his driver’s license, which includes his address”. Gates asked: “Why are you doing this? Is it because I’m a black man and you’re a white officer? I don’t understand why you don’t believe this is my house.” … “Gates was then arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and racial harassment.” Only in the United States and we actually believe/ brain washed into believing / that we are among the advance nations of the world…. who is kidding whom ?
I must say you hit this right on and I’ve been thinking along the same lines ever since hearing this verdict. I have no children, but briefly was an un-credentialed art teacher for an alternative high school in Berkeley/Oakland that served kids who’d been expelled essentially from the mainstream school system, no going back. It seems in hindsight that they were essentially expelled for being teenagers while black and / or poor. While this school did help a whole lot of them recover lost ground and self-esteem, and the communities of Berkeley and Oakland (part of the San Francisco Bay Area) did try to do better by their kids when they could, I can’t say that the lessons have reverberated into all of the communities of the Bay area. I am not saying better education could ever have saved Tamir’s life and it seems dead wrong to me to think that the only successful Black men and women will be the ones who’ve internalized being hyper-alert to the presence of danger from white supremacy in combination with sublimating their own humanity for groveling passivity and meekness. This seems to be the expectation of white supremacy. Yet, like you, I am so fed up with waiting for the numbers to show, the masses such as showed in Russia for their fallen leader that I agree that if all we’re up for is mental masturbation that we simply ought to own that. However, the way I hear some supposedly liberal white folks carry on, it’s the fault of gun culture and until that is abandoned, they just could care less to get on board about the discrepancies of justice between white gun culture and POC gun culture. Mandela and Gandhi, and all, they claim, but they themselves just don’t want to commit to availability for prison time; more important to send their kid to the out of state and wildly expensive university. And don’t they love to get away to “the countryside” themselves, where these universities usually are nestled so cozily in the middle of home turf for the NRA, the KKK and host to the secretive retreats of politicians, corporate players. The force of the colossal cruelty is palpable if one tries to move or think differently in these areas, so I guess these “conservative liberals” not only don’t but are too myopic to see how “hand in hand” they are with the same cruelty, let alone admit to the ugly appropriation and subjugation of “stay mental” to their unacknowledged masturbation.
This is definitely an ignored truth that must be fully discussed and dealt with. Being born and raised in Cleveland, there is no denying the systematic racism that is our police department and the apparent racism of our country’s justice system. As my son is only a toddler, I do not have experience with raising a black child or a black man at that. As a mixed male he will have his own personal struggles and experiences that his father or I may never understand. As far back as I can remember, enough has been enough. And yet awareness is only the beginning, but as we know from your train experience, action is what is required from all parties. My significant other and many friends have said that racism may never change until it upsets the lives of white people… I can say that in my short time of living in Maine, it has taken a toll on my family and I. It is easy to feel alienated and easy to lose sight of important issues, especially living in such a secluded area. Thank you for allowing me to keep a bit of my sanity.
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