Trouble(d) Man

I am not ok.

People are telling folks who are hurting to be quiet. People are telling some of us

who have heavy hearts and are expressing our views thoughtfully and legally that we are wrong. What happened to walking a mile in someone else's shoes?

"What If Whites Were the Minority?" by Nicholas Kristof

I am angry.

People are being told that their experience as a black person is not valid.

As a man, never would I question the experience of a pregnant woman. Would I say, "It can't be that bad. You must be exaggerating! Toughen up!" No. Because I don't know what it feels like. So, I will listen, learn, and appreciate their experience. Some of us are just asking for the same type of respect when sharing our experience. 

I am confused.

How do I tell my daughter to have faith, when I might have lost mine? How do I tell my daughter to fight the good fight, when the fight has me exhausted yet again?

I wonder why my close white friends and white family members have not discussed Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice with me. Is it because they think I am ok? Are they not compelled to do so? Or is it because they want to avoid discussing anything that acknowledges my blackness? 

I am disappointed.

These are tough times for America. I am troubled. But I believe in this country. We need the police. But, is it wrong to sometimes question policies, practices, and behavior? We don't stand pat when it comes to our government officials and educators.

I am aware.

It is important to hear what the people who are hurting are saying. Here are some of their words and voices. 

"And most of all, the reflex to deny that there is anything racial about the lens through which we typically view law enforcement; to deny that being white has shaped our understanding of policing and their actions in places like Ferguson, even as being white has had everything to do with those matters. Racial identity shapes the way we are treated by cops, and as such, shapes the way we are likely to view them. As a general rule, nothing we do will get us shot by law enforcement: not walking around in a big box store with semi-automatic weapons (though standing in one with an air rifle gets you killed if you’re black); not assaulting two officers, even in the St. Louis area, a mere five days after Mike Brown was killed; not pointing a loaded weapon at three officers and demanding that they—the police—'drop their f--king guns;' not committing mass murder in a movie theatre before finally being taken alive; not proceeding in the wake of that event to walk around the same town in which it happened carrying a shotgun; and not killing a cop so as to spark a “revolution,” and then leading others on a two month chase through the woods before being arrested with only a few scratches." - Tim Wise

"Unfortunately, key players in this case, buttressed by a particularly clueless segment of white America, actually seemed to believe that a grand jury decision in favor of Darren Wilson would simply be accepted by black America. The outrage from the St. Louis Police Officers hearkens back to an era when black people were expected to willingly endure white people’s routine horrific acts and humiliations committed against them. That this decision feels like a travesty worthy of literally stopping traffic in locales all over the country is an affective response that seems to escape white notice, an apparent casualty of the well-documented racial empathy gap, among white Americans. Though many white people do understand the racial magnitude of last week’s devastating decision—the sense it offers that black people, and in particular young black men, are simply sheep for the slaughter—far too many white people do not understand this.

Among those with more insidious and overt racial animus, the belief is that we should simply “lie down and take it.” Among well-meaning, reasonable white people, the view is more anodyne. These people implored us to wait for justice to take its course, for the evidence to be evaluated, the witnesses to testify, a decision to be made.

There is a real disconnect between what white people know and what black people know in this country. Philosophers and political theorists understand these as questions of “epistemology,” wherein they consider how social conditions shape our particular standpoint, and ability to apprehend the things that are supposed to be apparent to us. “How do we know what we know?” is one way we might ask the question."

-Brittney Cooper

"And while defenders of the police like to point to thousands of nonfatal misdemeanor arrests as evidence that officers are acting in a way that is reasonable and safe, there can never be a justification for any lethal assault on an unarmed man, no justification for brutality."

Alicia Keys wrote a powerful song in response to the events in Ferguson.

Because there are some who acknowledge the disconnect and are trying to help.

"These are the lessons to which I was exposed, and the reality of what policing communities of color has been, not just in New York City but across America. There is a legacy of inequity that did not just appear overnight, but was carved into the culture of law enforcement over decades."

-Eric L. Adams: Brooklyn Borough President, a retired New York Police Department Captain, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.

"The argument is that this is not a perfect case, because Brown — and, one would assume, now Garner — isn’t a perfect victim and the protesters haven’t all been perfectly civil, so therefore any movement to counter black oppression that flows from the case is inherently flawed. But this is ridiculous and reductive, because it fails to acknowledge that the whole system is imperfect and rife with flaws. We don’t need to identify angels and demons to understand that inequity is hell."

-Charles Blow

"It’s often said after events like Ferguson that we need a national conversation on race. That’s a bit true. We all need to improve our capacity for sympathetic understanding, our capacity to imaginatively place ourselves in the minds of other people with experiences different from our own. Conversation can help, though I suspect novels, works of art and books like Claude Brown’s “Manchild in the Promised Land” work better.

But, ultimately, we don’t need a common conversation; we need a common project. If the nation works together to improve social mobility for the poor of all races, through projects like President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, then social distance will decline, classism will decline and racial prejudice will obliquely decline as well." 

-David Brooks

"The novelist Ann Petry vividly captured this observer effect in her 1946 novel “The Street,” in which the African-American protagonist, Lutie Johnson, remarks that racial perceptions of blacks “depended on where you sat.” She explains that if “you looked at them from inside the framework of a fat weekly salary, and you thought of colored people as naturally criminal, then you didn’t really see what any Negro looked like,” because “the Negro was never an individual” but “a threat, or an animal, or a curse.

After a black man is killed in a failed robbery, she notes that a reporter “saw a dead Negro who had attempted to hold up a store, and so he couldn’t really see what the man lying on the sidewalk looked like.” Instead, he saw “the picture he already had in his mind: a huge, brawny, blustering, ignorant, criminally disposed black man.” 

-Michael Eric Dyson: Professor of Sociology at Georgetown, author of a forthcoming book on President Obama and race.

"You have to have a complete lack of humanity to not at least acknowledge that there's a whole chunk of our country and the world that experiences life and all that it has to offer differently. Have compassion for the pain. Have compassion for that difference. Have compassion that a man has lost his life after pleading repeatedly -- 11 times -- 'I cannot breathe.' We watched a snuff film."

-Gabrielle Union

I am hopeful.

"Let's talk. Let's educate ourselves. Let's stop assuming. Let's grow. Let's evolve."

-Christopher Persley: Husband, Father, Educator, Proud American, Human

Posted on December 16, 2014 .