‘Tis the summer for unexplainable and unaccountable shootings and murders of Black folks by white folks, or so it seems.
To say I’m tired of the racism, brutality, and unnecessary deaths of Black people is a vast understatement. It is literally like there’s something new everyday, and a big part of me feels completely powerless. I recognize that there are aspects of my identity that allow me to carry some privilege, but I have noticed that over the past 2 years I have largely been identifying with the half of me that is Black. I love being biracial, but the thing is- when I go outside and people see me, they don’t assume I’m biracial and, thus, less threatening. They assume I’m Black, or just “light-skinned,” and I’m treated accordingly. This year was the first year I have ever experienced overt oppression…and, would you believe it, it was in a professional setting. Thankfully, I was able to advocate for myself and remove myself from those situations, but it forced me to consider (even more) the ways in which countless other Black folks are subjected to overt and covert racism, but aren’t in positions where they can advocate for themselves without being hurt or murdered.
Can you believe that so many people thought racism would be a thing of the distant past by the time 2016 came around? I’ll admit that during my college years, I believed that. The primary reason for that belief was that *I* wasn’t experiencing it. Talk about egocentric.
The other day, I saw the video of Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist who was shot in the leg while trying to help his client return to the group home. What’s most infuriating to me is the fact that he was lying on the ground with his hands in the air, clearly NOT a threat to *anyone,* and was still shot. He was calmly speaking to officers, and pleading with his client to lie down. In his interview, he said, “I was thinking ‘as long as I have my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me…they’re not going to shoot me.’ Wow, was I wrong.” I was annoyed with an acquaintance for responding to a friend’s post about Mr. Kinsey by saying, “Looks like he’s going to fully recover?” LOOK: that is not the mf point, okay? This man was shot for NO reason. The cop who shot him got administrative (read: paid) leave. To say, “looks like he’s going to fully recover?” is dismissive and clearly a way for you to absolve yourself of any inadvertent complicity. Yes, I’m happy that he will be okay, but the point is that he shouldn’t have been shot in the first place.
And it’s further enraging that the officer who shot him claimed he didn’t know why, and later stated, “I did what I had to do.” Now, before you read this poorly-comprised cover-up, let me tell you that it is a complete trash. He feared for a Black man’s safety from a “white” man (Rinaldo was actually Hispanic), when the latter was holding a TOY TRUCK. Okay, but aren’t white folks supposed to be inherently nonthreatening and Black folks are the ones we should fear?? Let’s be clear, there was no confusion about what the man had in his hands because Mr. Kinsey explicitly stated that his client was holding a toy truck. So, let me ask, what could that officer have seen that made him so fearful for Mr. Kinsey’s life? Another reason I know this fabrication is exactly that, is because the officer could have given that answer when Mr. Kinsey asked him, “Why did you shoot me?” If he really believed Mr. Kinsey had been threatened by Rinaldo, he could have answered with that *when he was asked.* Instead, he waits a couple of days later, comes forward to the news outlets, and responds with, “I did what I had to do,” because apparently Mr. Kinsey was in danger. -_-
After years of conditioning that tell Black folks that their word alone is not good enough, many have internalized “appropriate” ways of responding to police officers – only to find out that those “appropriate” ways aren’t good enough. Charles Kinsey is an excellent case in point. When I saw the headline about a [Black] behavioral therapist trying to help a client with Autism, my first thought was of my dad. His job is essentially the same, only he has to travel to different cities to do it. He works with clients who have developmental delays, aggressive behaviors, and, yes, Autism. My dad is a dark-skinned African-American man. I have heard him recount dozens of situations wherein he was subjected to overt and covert racism. Thankfully, as far as I know, he was never the victim of police brutality. Nevertheless, this news got me thinking, and it made me more concerned about things I absolutely cannot control (i.e. where my dad goes, the racist people he encounters).
Last night I saw a post about video that had been released of Breaion King, an Austin teacher who is African-American and experienced police brutality. Her encounter happened a year ago, but the video was only released this week. Be forewarned, the nature of the violence directed toward this woman is extreme, and may be triggering. Let me just note some facts: The woman is African-American. She told the officer she would comply, IF he stopped touching her. She verbalized that she was not trying to resist. He became aggressive within 15 seconds of speaking to her. Some could pick this interaction apart and say that she asked the officer to “please hurry up” which indicated insubordination. Okay, I’ll let you have that, but I’m gonna come right back and ask, when people are insubordinate, do they deserve to be slammed to the ground like they’re in a mock-WWE round? The answer is a resounding NO. She requested to be taken to the police station by a different officer than the one who was so aggressive toward her, and I am willing to bet that she thought (for a good 2 seconds) that she was in good company. She asked the driver if he believed racism still existed, to which he responded “yes.” So she asked him why, hoping for an allied response, when she was told that police are sometimes wary of Black people because of their “violent tendencies.” REALLY??
In watching the video of Ms. King, you can clearly see that even a year later, she is still reliving the trauma of that encounter. You can see that she is trying to look on the positive side and put on a smile for those watching. This is the classic Strong Black Woman trope on display for everyone. Despite the fact that she is undoubtedly still struggling with regaining her sense of safety and trust, it appears that she still felt some need to try and put her struggles aside so that she could tell her story.
Now, the Strong Black Woman is another post for another day, but this trope definitely calls into question the politics of respectability. How? Because if a Black person expresses emotions other than subordination, calmness, forgiveness, etc., s/he is deemed incredible. When Black folks express emotions that show anger or any other kind of upset, they are often written off as loud, too close to the issue, “crazy,” or a troublemaker. In reality, these emotional responses are a very natural response for ANYONE who experiences racism, police brutality, trauma, etc. Yet, the color of our skin often subverts our credibility – at least it does for some white folks or others in positions of power.
I know I previously posted about being an Angry Black Woman until something changes. While I am trying to do my best to engage others in antiracist conversations for action, attempting to attend rallies that are near me when I’m not working, and blogging about my reactions on multiple platforms, I still feel helpless. I still feel angry. Maybe that’s just a part of my identity, a part that some white folks will be quick to dismiss me for, but it’s something I’m not willing to relinquish. I am angry. I am Black. and I will continue to verbalize the oppressions that Black people experience. I will civilly make others uncomfortable in hopes that they will recognize and admit their privilege, then feel inspired to join the fight for antiracist change. Nothing will get better if people remain oblivious and complacent in their positions of privilege. I know what I need to do. What about you?