The Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People
It’s another day and another way that America shows that it is not here for Black people even though this country was built on our backs and our blood fertilized the soil. Eric Garner was killed as he was in a chokehold by a cop who saw him selling loose cigarettes. His last words were “I can’t breathe” and all of it was caught on tape. ALL of it.
It was just last week that we learned that Darren Wilson will not be getting indicted for killing unarmed Black boy Mike Brown. JUST LAST WEEK so this is some twisted and tragic deja vu. It’s becoming all too common. And whenever one of these things happens, things go down like routine. There’s predictable stages and I am going to chart them here.
Stage 1: Another Black person is beat up, arrested or killed senselessly
This is where we find out someone Black has been violated/abused/assaulted in a major way usually by a person of authority, a vigilante or a cop. There’s Trayvon Martin, killed by a neighborhood watchman as he walked home in the rain with a hoodie over his head. There’s Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a 7-year old who was laying in bed when police shot through her house. There’s Rekia Boyd, killed when a cop opened fire into an alley where she was standing. There’s Tamir Rice, the 12-year old who was shot by police as he was on a playground because they thought his BB gun was real. There’s _____ and _______ and oh yeah _______. Unfortunately, I could keep going endlessly.
Stage 2: People are enraged by the injustice
We hear about this, we amplify it and we rage. We RAGE for the lives that were lost for no reason. We mourn for the parents who have to bury their child, the people who lost their life partners, the young ones who were there to see their friends slain.
We rave about a system that gives no dambs about Black lives, Black bodies and Black humanity (or just HUMANITY AT ALL). We weep for battles fought that 50 years ago that we still haven’t won. We cry out for the grief we feel because Rekia, Trayvon, Mike, Aiyana, Amadou could have been any one of us. WE. RAGE, gahtdambit. Because America makes it clear that we’re on our own, and walking down the street is a crime when you’re Black. Our skins are considered deadly weapons so we die simply for being in them.
— B'casso (@_lifeonthemoon) December 3, 2014
Stage 2.5: People are too tired to be outraged
There are some people who ask us all “why are you surprised?” or “What did you expect?” They are tired. Maybe they are protecting themselves from the bottomless pit of rage and hopelessness that could come when they let themselves feel. They have long given up on the broken system and every new event is their confirmation. So they wonder why we are still shocked.
We are still surprised because the day we stop getting outraged about this is the day we accept our fate as America’s chickens to be slaughtered at will. I will be surprised EVERY SINGLE TIME. And yes, it will happen again. Soon. And yes, we will RAGE then too.
Stage 3: Smear Campaign and victim blaming
Once we find out about the killing and violation of a Black person, we quickly get to the place where people ask what the person did to get killed. As if people walk out everyday looking for trouble to get into that will lead to them having a hole in their body and a heart with no beat.
Because to be considered a TRUE victim, you need to be a saint who never even raised your voice, cussed or put up any selfies that didn’t have you in a choir robe. Because to defame your character is to place the onus of death squarely on your shoulders. If you’re in a hoodie in any of your online pics, beware. That day when you felt like rocking some Timbs and a baggy shirt, they will find that pic and ask what you did as the “thug” you are.
— The Root (@TheRoot) August 11, 2014
They find out that Mike/Trayvon/Tamir’s stepdaddy’s first cousin twice removed didn’t file taxes in 2004, therefore they were a monster. And there’s no real correlation to the matter at hand but that doesn’t matter. Because victims cannot be VICTIMS unless they were angels on Earth. And when they can’t find anything to use on them, they find anything around them to use to drag their names through the mud.
Well, only if you’re Black. Because that is when you actually have to PROVE your humanity, instead of having it given to you. Because even in death, they won’t let your soul rest without smearing it with dirt. Even though, if you’re white, you can shoot up an entire movie theater, walk out with your life intact and get painted as someone who is “disturbed.”
Stage 3.25: Media asks “What did he/she do?”
This is when the media plants ideas on what the victim may have done to deserve being shot in the back, killed while in bed, choked til he could not breathe. They ask stupid questions about whether the cop was acting in self-defense. They also actively participate in the smear campaign against the deceased, posting the pics of him in the gold grill, frowning at the camera. As if every teenager doesn’t have a picture of them mean mugging.
Stage 3.5: FOX News confirms that it’s THE WORST
Because FOX News deserves its own sub-stage for their tone deaf coverage of EVERYTHING. Going to them for the truth is like going to WalMart to buy a Ferrari. You will not find one there and you should not look.
Stage 3.75: The “None of us were there” people
People will chime up to tell us that none of us were there and we don’t really know what could have happened. They’ll play “Devil’s Advocate” and tell us we need to understand that there are two sides to every story. EXCEPT ONE SIDE IS DEAD AND THAT’S THE SIDE THAT MATTERS MOST, DINGBAT! Shut your devil’s advocate ass the fuck up. Why do you wanna be the devil’s advocate any damb way. Who told you that Satan needs a mouthpiece? Did he say he needed a chaperone? NOPE. Thank you. Not STCOMPLETEFU. The folks in this stage are usually mostly white and mostly conservative and mostly living in a bubble chockful of privilege.
In the case of Eric Garner, we WERE there, because we all saw the video. Now what?
Stage 4: What about Black on Black crime?
This HAS to happen in this cycle because people feel the need to point out to us that why are we worried about any crimes that other people commit on our Black bodies when Black people criminalize each other?
Black on Black crime is a DUMB ASS phrase. 94% of murders that Black people are victims of are committed by other Black people. 83% of murders that white people are victims of is committed by other white people. WHY? Because we interact with people who are in our racial groups most often. People victimize other people who look like them.
Also, ANY Black crime is HANDLED by the system. In fact, it’s OVERHANDLED. Our prisons are full of Black boys, girls, men and women who are in there for things as small as stealing candy bars. FULL. So please shut the entire hell up about this since even if it was a problem, it’s already being addressed. The system doesn’t like Black folks getting away with ANYTHING. So you ain’t gotta worry about that.
Meanwhile, white people can cuss out a cop, wave a gun in their face, assault them but walk away with probation. Because the complexion for protection is real, and when coupled with Affluenza, what you have is recipe for invincibility. Read tweets from the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite for more examples on how breaking the law when you’re white might actually get you escorted home by a cop who wants to make sure you’re safe. But when you’re Black, you might end up dead and gone.
You want more stats? Check out these by Demos, a public policy org.
Racial Inequality in the Criminal Justice System Facts
* In the federal system Black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crime.
* Five times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.
* African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of Whites.
* African American juvenile youth are about 16% of the youth population, 37% of their cases are moved to criminal court & 58% of convicted African American youth are sent to adult prisons.
* African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated.
In spite of ALL THESE FACTS, people will stand wrong and strong in your Facebook comments and Twitter mentions. It’s full of white folks spitting the tired rhetoric but the worst part is that this stage has a lot of vocal Black people too. They just have to remind the rest of us. And I just wanna dropkick them in the face for being simple as hell. And for being Don Lemon. Can we ex-communicate him? I’m asking. For everyone.
Stage 5: Reminding us that “Not All White People”
As we rage about the system, the inhumane treatment of Black people that has been allowed, encouraged and state-sanctioned because of white privilege that has soaked the very fabric of the system, people push back to let us know that not all white people are racist.
And we didn’t even say ALL white people are racist but racism is real, bigots are plenty and we’re not just making this up to make white folks feel bad. IT IS REAL. We said that white people benefit from privilege and the automatic position of power they’re in just because of their skin color. We didn’t call you RACIST, unless you feel like pointing out that FACT makes you a bigot. Then by all means, holler like hit dogs do.
This is also when we are all told that not all cops are bad. Nope. Not all. But the bad ones are really showing their asses and the good ones need to know that these are their coworkers. Again, hit dogs holler. But criticizing ONE group does not mean handing out personal judgments of everyone in that group.
Stage 5.5: #BlackLivesMatter? What About #AllLivesMatter?
We know that all lives matter. WE KNOW. But we have to say
#BlackLivesMatter to remind people of our humanity, which is far too often forgotten. So for white people (or anyone who isn’t Black) to feel like this proclamation somehow diminishes THEIR humanity is to confirm that very self-centeredness that we’re fighting against.
Being pro-Black doesn’t make us anti-white. Stand down, Butthurt Bill. STAND DOWN.
Stage 5.75: And this is the part where folks let us know that they’re colorblind and they don’t really see race and “This is clearly not about race, YOU GUISE!” Nope. Not about race at all. Because sure a white man can be seen being KILLED on camera and the Black cop who killed him won’t even have to spend a day in court. YEAH OK. In Opposite Land!
We are all just playing the race card. If we WERE playing Spades, being Black would make you the 3 of clubs. That’s how much we can “win” with it.
Also, you’re not colorblind so stop saying that. STAHP. You see this melanin that covers me. Seeing color is not bad. Treating people like less than because of their color is the problem. Forced politeness and the fear of the “race card” trump actual work and progress.
Stage 6: Create a Twitter hashtag to unite the conversation
We create a hashtag around whatever happened, and it serves as a way for everyone to unite in anger, venting, next steps. Oftentimes, it is a way for us to really side-eye the hell out of the people who are missing the point of it all. We use the hashtag as a group effort to tell the people in stages 3-5 to shut the ENTIRE COMPLETE ABSOLUTE fuck up.
Like when the St. Louis Police Association asked the Rams to apologize publicly for 5 players who walked unto the field with their hands up. We created a #STLPDApologies hashtag so they could get an apology. It probably wasn’t the type they expected, though.
We apologize for that whole asserting our basic humanity thing. That's gotta be really annoying for you. #STLPDApologies
— Top Bitch of Honor (@writeli) December 1, 2014
Stage 7: People protest and are told to be calm
The people of Ferguson have taken to the streets since August when Michael Brown got killed. They are the reason we still know his name. They are the reason we can’t rest. They are the fighters in front of this new movement, and for that, we have to thank them, They helped spark something important, and all around the world, people have joined them to say #HandsUpDontShoot. And to show that we will not take this lying down.
And since Darren Wilson, Mike’s killer, got off from even being charged last Tuesday, people everywhere have been protesting, and orgs like the Millennial Activists United, Black Youth Project 100 and the Dream Defenders help lead some of these protests. Folks of all colors and backgrounds have come together and that has been a beautiful thing. There have been die-ins that have disrupted the peace and even had a mall in St. Louis shut down on the biggest shopping day of the year (Black Friday).
Stage 7.5: Calling protesters rioters
One way to diminish the work of people who are protesting is by calling them looters, even though many people have peacefully assembled, which is their first amendment right. The way protesting has been framed by the media has been to show lawlessness and people damaging property. Not only does this ignore the folks who are peaceful with it, it also places the blame on people who feel like there’s nothing to even protect.
Stage 7.75: Quote MLK to call for peace
Because Martin Luther King Jr. has become the Patron Saint of Respectability and Pull Your Pants Up, folks are quick to quote his words on keeping peace and nonviolence and kumbaya. But they forget that MLK also said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” In a country where our people are being killed with no consequence, not feeling heard is DEFINITELY a problem.
Being a “Good Black” hasn’t kept us safe so what incentive do people have to maintain composure? NADA. Because it doesn’t matter. And people think when you get rich enough, you shed some of the ills that come with Blackness (looking at you, Charles Barkley the Callous).
The parents of Mike Brown called for peace but I’d have a hard time not creating all types of chaos if you kill my son and let the man who did it walk and then rewarded him with 3 months paid vacation. I would play Usher’s “Let It Burn” as my theme music and I’d want to light the match myself. Michael Brown Sr. and Leslie McSpadden are THE CLASSIEST.
You can’t kill us and treat us like target practice for 400 years and then be all “hey guys. Relax.” because we’re sick and tired of the bullshit. SO SHUT UP WHEN YOU’RE TALKING TO ME. You got some nerve.
I’m petty. I’ll be that.
Stage 8: You learn how the people you know really feel
During these times, people show who they are, whether in their silence (which speaks volumes) or in their words. You will either unfollow and unfriend racists, lifelong friends and people you thought you respected. OR you actually fall deeper in love with the people you know because they are with you, and they are being loud about it.
Many of the comments and terrible things you’ll see will come from people who you’ve followed and friended. Some of them, you actually know in real life. And when that person you thought you respected comes on your Facebook status to drop the Black on Black thing or to say that we need to pull up our pants and maybe then we can prosper as a people, you will realize that you know idiots. And that you don’t want dummies in your newsfeeds. And even though it pains you to have to cut the cord on friend from high school/acquaintance you grab lunch with from time to time/wayward cousin, you will do it for your peace of mind. BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT STAND FOR THAT SHIT. NO, YOU WILL NOT.
NO COUNTRY FOR DERAILMENT BINGO!
One good thing that comes out of these events is that it allows you to see who is clutter and who needs to be cut off. Although there is apparently an argument for keeping them as friends, and it could be you who changes their mind and lets them see the light. OR they might be so tied to their prejudice or respectability politics or wrongness that nothing can change it. It’s up to you.
And then, others will speak up about the injustice even though they are not skinfolk. My white friends have been very vocal about what has been happening, how wrong it’s been and how they recognize their privilege. They’ve written blog posts, statuses, tweets about it, and they’ve raged along with us. They are not being condescending, nor are they personally apologizing for what’s happening. They are standing up and being allies, and their anger matters to me too. Because to be silent is to consent.
Stage 9: The killer walks free
It is here that our broken hearts shatter into tiny little pieces. Every single time that a Grand Jury refuses to indict a cop in spite of witnesses, video tape evidence, word from coroner, 5 people with 20/20 vision and a sworn truthteller, it is a punch to the chest. EVERY SINGLE TIME someone is cleared of all charges, I feel like *I* can’t breathe. I am just left fighting the air and facepalming repeatedly. And cussing like a sailor and giving everything the middle finger.
We weren’t there when Trayvon was killed but he was unarmed and he died because a man was threatened by his presence and shot him. Many people were there when Mike Brown was killed because a cop was threatened by his presence and shot him. Many people saw Eric Garner being put in the chokehold that killed him. One person got footage of the whole thing and we watched his taped final moments. All three men who killed these unarmed black boys and man are walking free.
George Zimmerman was at least tried. But he still walked away without serving a night in jail for killing Trayvon Martin. Darren Wilson is not only a free man, but he’s collected over $400,000 in donations and got married as he awaited the decision on indictment. The trial against Aiyana’s killer ended up as a mistrial because the jury deadlocked. So her killer is free, as well.
We have VIDEOTAPE of the killing of Eric Garner and we STILL can’t get the cop charged. My goodness. They can’t even humor us and let the thug in blue uniform stand trial.
If you’re comfortable about living in the land of the free and home of the brave right now and if you think justice exists for people who look like me, then please invite me to the rock in which your home must be under.
On top of everything that happens, this stage is the one that really cements the fact that we’re not considered fully human not just by individuals but by the government itself. It is past just “some racist cops” and it is systemic oppression. And THAT does feel personal. Intensely.
Stage 10: We get to work on dismantling the system brick-by-brick
We organize. We march. We find out what we need to do next to make change happen because we’re sick of this shit and we need it to stop. Because when stage 1 happens again, we’re left in the same rage cycle, left to figure out why the hell we’re still fighting for basic human rights.
But we’ve been fighting for a while. We’ve been fighting the same battles for so long.
My grandmother is in tears. Tears. She said they marched because she didn't want us to have to. And now look.
— Bre (@_ItsMissBre) December 3, 2014
And here we are. STILL fighting. Still having to take to the streets. Still marching. Just so we can walk down the street and a state-paid thug in blue will let us live past that block.
In 50 years, our grandchildren will read about Ferguson like we read about Selma. In 50 years, we will talk about America not loving Black people even as a Black man sat in its most valued house. And in 50 years, I hope that we are not just going to copy and paste the text from books that WE read about 50 years ago.
The house we need to build is huge and we’ve got to do it brick-by-brick. The road shall be long so we gotta put on some comfortable shoes. Because those who came before us fought for so much more with so much less. THAT is the hope I need to keep fighting.
Black Jesus is gonna come down for Judgment day and some cop will shoot him because his cloak looks like a hoodie. Then God is gonna have to blow up everything because He’s sick of all our shenanigans.
JUSTICE NOW. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
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