I will never forget the movie, A Time to Kill. You see it takes place in Mississippi. A black girl is violently raped. Her body and psyche are ravaged. And so the case goes to court. In the climate you already know this all white jury is going to acquit the white men that raped this girl. You can taste racism in the air. But her lawyer makes one of the most astonishing arguments I have ever heard. First, he describes the sick act that was done to this innocent girl. And then as his closing line he says, now imagine the girl is white. He wins the case. Justice happens.
I have never forgotten that movie because it made one thing poignant that we are impacted by race and that the empathy that is present for whites is missing for blacks. During the days after Hurricane Katrina blacks were depicted as robber while whites were depicted as looking for food. They both entered stores and took merchandise during this crises but the response of the public was different. Well you can take a variety of situations and come up with the same situation. On a reality tv show they had both a white man and black man try to break into a car. People walked by the white man and did nothing. You already know what happened to the black man. We assume the best about white people and often time the worse about black people.
In the case of Michael Brown I have felt torn. I think very early on he was demonized and portrayed as a thug type. I think it muddies the water and allows people to justify the shooting of a person. If Michael did attack the police officer was there no other response in the police bag of tricks to subdue him? I think a body laying in the street for hours also doesn’t sit well. I think the response of the police department doesn’t bode well even if it was one of their own. I think as it relates to black bodies and life we lose something as it relates to compassion and concern for our fellow human. It’s so much easier to see a black male as deviant than innocent and wayward.
But I have to be honest seeing black males with pants hanging off of them and scarves tied around their neck drenched in tattoes is unsettling even it one wants to claimed it’s my own internalized racism. I don’t know how to understand this kind of looting and action. Saying that people are mad, doesn’t help me get there. I am not willing to label or judge them but at least I want to honor my own discomfort with us. I am uncomfortable with Michael Brown’s mother speech. I did not feel her pain or anguish in the abundant use of fuck as an expression of her anger. I’ve seen real mother pain and sorry I am feeling blind here. I am only explaining my own ambivalence and believe as a black person that we have diversity in our experience of racism. I’m just saying I’m torn.
I think America has to start caring about black bodies with intention. It has to be a concerted effort. I believe do good whites can’t just march with us but they must speak up when they are around their friends and fight for policy that is fair and humane. I believe that blacks can protest and should protest because organized proactive response allows us not only to express our full agency but be heard and seen. I believe blacks have to stop the violence that comes from us regardless of the external force. I believe whites have to look at the blood on their hands and stop being so damn defensive; this country’s foundation stands on racism. I also believe blacks have to look at themselves and think of ways to move forward. We can be heard without destroying the limited resources that are in our community. And most important blacks and whites have to see each other, really see each other and not our biases, stereotypes, and prejudices or at least know when they are present. Michael Brown was a black male who was still developing and he life ended prematurely. Now, we all have something to do. In light of what happened in court, all efforts have to move us toward a clearer understanding the black life matters.