Tag Archives: Post-racial America

The Threat of Desensitization

Over dinner tonight, Hope and I watched the evening news.  During the news, coverage on the murder of Terence Crutcher was shown.

If you haven’t heard of Mr. Crutcher, here’s the short version of how his life was cut short.

His car was stalled in the middle of a roadway. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were apparently on the way to an unrelated police call when they saw him.

Crutcher apparently thought they were coming to help him; they didn’t help him.

Despite initially walking towards the police, likely believing they were there to assist him, he realized that he was in danger and raised his hands above his head.

Helicopter video is online, along with the narration about how Crutcher wasn’t following directions and that he looked like a “bad dude, to be honest.”

He was hit with the stun gun, and shot beside his car.

More than two minutes went by before any life-saving efforts were attempted.

He was unarmed.

It’s just not right. It’s just not right.

I closed my eyes as the nightly news showed the video clip of Crutcher’s body laying alongside his car; it’s bad enough that he was shot and killed but the incessant need to show the bodies of dead people by the media specifically and public in general is just too much for me.

It is difficult enough to know that there is little dignity in life, but to be reminded that there is none in death is just beyond heartbreaking.

As I looked down into my bowl of pasta holding back my emotions, listening to Crutcher’s sister repeatedly say that his life mattered, Hope said, “I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with this time for this killing.”

She then went back to babbling on about band drama.

She didn’t miss a beat.

I read the response as, “This is something that just happens to us.”

And some days, it does just feel like that; this trauma is a chronic experience we are just enduring as black folks.

It’s kind of like what life felt like after 9/11; we begin a life under threat of terror. You go on about your life, day to day, year to year. There will be events, and they will be dramatic and traumatic. Despite our best efforts to “fight terror,” there is an acceptance that to some degree, this is just our life now.

Terrorism can happen at any time, anywhere.

We know that, and we accept it.

Terrorism can happen even alongside your stalled car as you think someone who is supposed to be there to help you, ends your life.

But the thing is, it should not be happening. All of this, the various types of terrorism, should not be happening.

This, this life of feeling like I should be deathly afraid of people who are sworn to help me, is something I do not want to be used to; this is not something I want Hope to accept as normal.

This isn’t anti-police, this is about being pro-life. I do not want to die with the need for an investigation into how and why I died.

Actually, I don’t want to die at all.

How could state sanctioned murder of unarmed black men become normalized? How could the shock of seeing black bodies lying in the street ever wear off.

Sure, Hope could’ve just wanted to get back to her band conversation (with which she seems obsessed!), but it was so jarring for me to think that in the last couple of years, that she might be desensitized to the routine of police overreach, overreacting, not helping, not being the good guys. .

Certainly her own history may numbed her emotional response to these events; maybe it’s Hope’s age that influences her responses. Maybe I read all of this all wrong.

Hopefully, maybe?

In any case, I’ve become acutely aware of a new threat to black lives: the threat of desensitization towards the death of unarmed black folks.

This threat is dangerous; the acceptance of these events as somehow normative can lead to the abandonment of efforts to seek justice. That is tantamount to giving up on justice.

I can’t accept that. How can I teach my daughter that justice…isn’t just elusive, but that because of the normativity of it all, that justice isn’t for us?

I don’t want that for my family.

I won’t talk about it with Hope tonight, but I’ll save it for another day as I ruminate on it. It is a conversation that we’ll have, though. I don’t need for her to emote like me, but I want to be sure that the gravity of this loss of life is never lost on her. I want her to live her life fully, without fear and without ever being used to injustice.

 

 

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Tricks & Treats

This weekend the internet began to light up with Halloween foolery.  It’s that time of year again…the time of year when silly folks seem to think that dressing up in blackface or caricatures of various races and cultures for Halloween somehow becomes cool and acceptable because, you know, it’s a holiday.

Every got-dang year… same ish, different year.

But this year is different; I’m the new parent of a 12 year old, Black daughter.  I’m also Black.  We’re Black (just in case that isn’t clear from the blog title).  And now I have the responsibility of teaching my young, impressionable daughter that such depictions of people who look like us aren’t ok.  That cosigning friends’ and acquaintances’ desire to fetishize us is not ok either.  It isn’t just not ok; it’s some bull-hitsay.

I often tell people that I am proud to be an American, that I love this country and that it’s my favorite racist country.  I could list a bunch of other countries where I’m sure the racism would be worst.   But I was born here, and I live here and I’m so proud to be an American.

My proud, natural born citizenship notwithstanding, there’s some ish that really annoys the hell out of me about this country.  Among my issues:  the cavalier attitude with which we sweep issues of race under the carpet.  The kind of discourse that we don’t have, nay, can’t seem to have, despite being in a “post-racial” era that features a Black president.  The kind of place where my kid’s, friends’ parents may not teach them that spray browning their skin like Julianne Hough (See her OITNB fiasco) or dressing up as a Nazi officer, or plopping on a sombrero and carrying a can of refried beans to the Halloween party is all offensive.  Yeah, it’s offensive; not trying to hear any excuses.   These are just a few of the things that really furrow my brow.

So, now the challenge is helping my daughter to be comfortable in her deep brown skin and her coily, kinky hair and to walk proudly in her identity and her heritage and to not stand by and allow herself or people like her to be mocked and demeaned for the sake of some snickers bars for a trumped up holiday.

I would love to protect Hope from such things.  But I know that I can’t afford to not coach her on what seem to still be the rules of maneuvering through this life in this skin.

I’m not digging Halloween this year.


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