Why Everyone needs to love a kid like Michael Brown or Tamir Rice. (Hint: it’s not for them.)
Why everyone needs to love a kid like Michael Brown or Tamir Rice. (Hint it’s not for them.)
It’s unfortunate that even in this day one of the most effective arguments against violence against women or equal pay for women is “think about if that’s your mother or sister.” The idea here is you can draw empathy for the female plight because you have some kind of relationship to a woman. Here’s why it’s unfortunate, because whether you know a woman or not; people, humans, life has value and worth and all humans have equal worth. If this is true, and it is, then violence should be out of the question and equal pay shouldn’t even be a debate it should just be. That’s not how it is though. And even that argument “what if it’s your mother, sister, daughter” doesn’t always sway people since we all have mothers and domestic violence is still prevalent. Despite the flaws of the argument it has for many individuals created an “I get it” moment of insight.
Around the world everyone knows a woman, we may not all have grown up with sisters, or a mom, or have a daughter, but somewhere in there we met a woman whom we had a positive relationship with even if it was a teacher, neighbor, girlfriend whatever. So when I ask you to think of a woman you care about you can go “oh yea, her.” That’s not the case with young black men. Everyone can’t say they’ve had a positive experience with a young black man. Everyone doesn’t have access to a young black man. There are people who grow up in towns where there aren’t young black men. Or there were young black men but you never spoke to them or you weren’t allowed to speak to them. You have limited experience with young black men and your view or opinion of young black men is based off that limited experience. Your view is also painted with all the messages you receive about young black men.
Quick story: I was on a train in Australia and a woman struck up a conversation with me, not knowing I’m African American. She began to tell me how she didn’t like African Americans because we sag and our rap music has vulgar words and incites violence and some other general information. She then asked where I was from. I didn’t want to make her feel bad so I changed the subject without answering. She circled around and then asked again where I was from. I told her. Our conversation continued just long enough to be awkward then one of our stops came and the conversation politely ended.
A couple things were clear. She had limited experience with young Black Americans (how could she not, it was Australia), her view of young Black Americans was painted by a great deal more than the young African American kid in front of her, and she, in her life, has never loved a young black kid. She possibly has more of an excuse than many other people, but she is certainly not alone. When I hear comments so void of empathy like: “why do black people protest?” “Police wouldn’t shoot these kids if they didn’t break the law” “Why aren’t you protesting black on black crime.” “People of all colors get shot by the police.” While the logic of these comments are flawed in themselves, more than anything after someone makes comments like these I know they’ve never loved a young black kid.
When your view of young black men is painted with media, and music, and what your parents or grandparents or other people who’ve never loved a young black man tell you you make comments like the aformentioned. You can’t empathize. “Think about a young black man you know and care about” means nothing to you. So you may think all young black men are “up to no good”, they’re all criminals or they’re all dangerous. If you can categorize, then you might separate certain black men for example you might say the ones who sag and listen to rap music are criminals or are dangerous. When something happens like a young black man is killed by a white police officer you quickly identify with the individual you can connect with. For many that’s Officer Wilson, because you’ve loved someone like Officer Wilson before, you’ve been scared of dangerous young black men before, and you can’t identify with Michael Brown cause you’ve never loved anyone like him. So when information comes out that supports the idea you have about young black men you quickly believe it and that it justifies lethal force regardless of if it is relevant to the use of legal force. An example, we all know Trayvon Martin at some point in his life very likely smoked weed and we are sure he at least possessed it. We know that regardless of the fact it has nothing to do with how, why, or who murdered him. But it helps build the farce of a narrative that Trayvon is a criminal and he’s dangerous. It’s easy to find a way to impugn a victims character if you’ve never loved anyone like the victim. It’s not right, but it’s easy and unfortunately because many have never loved a young black man it’s easily believed.
Let me be clear. I’m encouraging you to love a young black man, not to know a young black man. Here’s the difference, I’ve met many people who know black people. I can point to racist teachers who have taught young black men, racist politicians who represent young black men, and for an intense example slave owners knew many young black men. To know is significantly different then loving. When you know a young black man it only serves a verbal excuse that holds no weight I.e. “I’m not racists I know James from church, I have black neighbors, and I love Oprah.” When you love a young black man it radically changes you.
When you love young black men they’re valuable and when someone treats them like they aren’t valuable a righteous anger ignites in you.
As a result you understand protest, as a means to bring attention to injustice. When you love someone like Jordan Davis they deserve justice.
When you love a young black man like Ezell Crawford you see through the irrelevant defamation of character that occurs after a young black man is killed.
When you love a young black man you can empathize with the fear that young black men have that a person can kill them because that person imagines that young black men are dangerous regardless of how not dangerous they actually are.
When you love a young black man you challenge your own perceptions of what you’re told about young black men.
When you love a young black man, you don’t let other people group all young black men into the dangerous criminals category.
When you love a young black man like Oscar Grant you understand that the amount of their underwear that you see has no relevance to their value.
When you love a young black man, you stay on task. You understand that when attention is drawn to irrelevant matters i.e. black on black crime or white people being shot by police, it dilutes the attention that is deserved. It forces people to look in other directions instead of how to keep young black men from dying unnecessarily and without even a sincere attempt at justice.
It is time to look into why you can’t love a young black kid. It’s time to discover for yourself why when Rue died in the Hunger Games you were sad, but you weren’t that sad because she was black. It’s time to be introspective and ask yourself why you can watch the video of young Tamir or Oscar Grant be murdered and go on about your day without another thought.
Now when you discover the reason you can’t love a young black kid I need you to figure out what you’re going to do about it, because I desperately need you to love young black men. Not just because I look young. It’s because I can’t watch another video or hear another news story about Tamir, or Akai, or Sean, and go about my day. It hurts. It hurts because I love young black men. It hurts because I have young black cousins, because I’ve mentored young black men, because I have loved a young black kid. If it takes a relationship for empathy then please I’m begging you whatever you have to do find out how to love a young black kid.
Now if that’s too “We are the world” for you here’s some strict self-interest motivation for you. When you can’t love a young black kid, you might say something very racists be vilified on twitter, loose many friends, and lose your job. It behooves you to love a young black man.