I’m Tired: Being Black and Dealing with the Police Brutality Narrative in America (Round 2)
Last school year I wrote an article for my undergrad’s school’s newspaper, The Collegian at the University of Tulsa, titled I’m Tired: Being Black and Dealing with the Police Brutality Narrative in America and it received mediocre attention with a powerful criticism I was not prepared for. John,* a student at my prestigious university, decided to email and explain to me how I was “dividing the country when I had the chance to bring us together and promote change.” He wrote that I was “promoting hate” and that I was “the reason why race relations in America are the way they are now.” I actively removed John’s criticism from my mind as I moved forward with my activism/school work but as I sit here and reflect on the killings from this past weekend to today, I can not seem to shake that email I received over an article I thought called for actions towards equality. Why was my personal feelings from my perspective overwhelming to a white cis gender straight man who felt “attacked” by my words? Was it privilege? Was it ignorance? Was it fear? Was it racism? I pondered these questions as John resurfaced on Facebook posts, public community forums facilitated by faculty, personal direct messages, etc as different people. So I have a letter for John, for all of the John’s:
Hey, I got your message and I felt that this needed to be addressed as 15 to 16 people have been killed by police officers since Colin Kaepernick began protesting by not standing during the pledge of allegiance before any game he plays in. I wonder how you feel about Kaepernick’s actions also, probably unpatriotic and “hateful” I would assume. But I do not have the right to assume where you stand, or sit, on this topic. I do not have the right to assume anything that you feel right now because I do not know how you feel or process all of these things that have happened recently in our country. I do however, feel it is necessary to address my stance on what I was doing in my article before and what I have been doing ever since. I guess my impact was not parallel with my intent, at least in your eyes.
Starting with #BlackLivesMatter, this hashtag does not mean that only black lives matter but that black lives do not matter under a racist system that our country was built upon. Sure, all lives matter, I do not think anyone ever argued that. The point we are trying to make is that my life is considered lesser then because of misinformation, harmful stereotypes and a check and balance system that protects murders and victim blames the dead, reinforcing the systemic racism that runs rampant in our society. I’m not going to bore you with anymore statistics, you seem to think that black on black crime (which is a myth) will trump all of that and negate the real issue that I am three times more likely to get killed in an interaction with a police officer nationwide. Like I said before, statistics are all out their but wetheprotestor.org is a great resource if you want to try and refute some more graphs.
I’m really focused on the past though, you may have decided to become an activist and work to “promote change” but I hope you’re doing it correctly. Correctly as in, not commanding spaces as part of the oppressive group while working for the oppressed group. Also, I really hope that you are not speaking out about a perspective that you do not understand unless it is purely for advocating and protecting the group you are trying to fight for. Please do not belittle or silence voices that you claim to be “agreeing with” just because they make you uncomfortable. Remember that when you are uncomfortable that you are in a space that is cultivating personal growth so that you can check in with yourself and address the issues that are making you uncomfortable so you can move forward accordingly. Activism is hard, and very hard to do without making mistakes but you have to grow from those experiences. I make mistakes working with communities that I do not belong too, I will admit that proudly, only because I was either educated by someone or Googled online to check myself so that I do not retraumatize folks I am trying to help.
I remembered you mentioned my shirts, my racist black power shirts. The ones that say that I’m “Black by Popular Demand” or “Melanin Poppin” or “Eracism,” yeah, still confused on how they’re racist. Still confused on how you can think that they are racist since cultural appropriation, blackface, brown face, red face, any face and erasure are so prevalent in our country. I mean, when I get on the internet all I see is white folks getting glorified for being mediocre at what black folks created. Don’t get me started on the Kardashian’s or Igloo Australia or Taylor Swift… Actually let me talk about that snake in the grass for a second. Kanye West is no where close to being a moral idol but what Taylor Swift did, which was utilizing the idea of the aggressive anger black man to milk fame and views out of America, no ma’am Pam. Don’t trust her as far as I run away when I hear her cackling sing talk voice hit my speakers. I’m sure you probably forgot about Rachel Dolezal but do not worry, twitter has many of her predecessors in full force. So my point is, I do not wear those shirts only because they are aesthetically pleasing and give me tons of compliments but because people who look like me do not get told that they matter enough. #BlackLivesMatter because black folk are not told that we matter enough.
So, John, my old acquaintance, I really do hope you are doing well. I do not hate you or wish harm upon you because you do not agree with me or see why I feel the way I feel, I probably want the same thing as you, truly. We are just going about it in two different ways from two different perspectives, mine being a little bit more active then yours is. I really hope that this installment of let me try and explain why my feelings are valid sits a little bit better for you. I’m only writing this to make a point that my “clouded emotional outrages” are not as clouded as you may think. They are precise, prompted and very passionate because I do not wanna have to type in another hashtag with the name of another unarmed black person. I’m not sorry for my first article and I am not sorry for anything else you might have saw between then and now. I certainly am not sorry for this message and I hope one day we will reap the benefits of the work that people put in everyday to reach equity within our society.
Your Tired But Unapologetic Friendly Neighborhood Black Man, Isaac
*Pseudonym, I do not have time for call out culture today.