On the shooting of 5 Black protesters — and Santa

[November 24, 2015]

Last year, during a NYC protest affirming Black Lives, a Santa cut in front of my group. Santacon, which is a festivity where people dress up in their holiday best and go from bar to bar, just so happened to coincide with the march borne out of the frustrations of shootings of Black people and non-indictments of cops and/or vigilantes.

It made for some good laughs. That was, until, Santa cut in front of my group. (Not pictured)

He didn’t want to just get across the street, he wanted to remind us that it wasn’t our street and angrily barked, “Go home”. I saw red — and not just his suit. It sounded like, “Go back to Africa” or “Go home nigger” when it was processing in my mind, and the next thing I knew, I yelled back, “YOU go home!” and started walking towards him. Thankfully, my homegirl yanked me back and we kept marching (peacefully and purposefully), but in that moment, I felt a need to respond to the perceived threat.

In the past few weeks, there have been several responses to the #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement — black tape over Black Harvard Law professors mouths, the creation of White Student Unions, and, just this morning, the shooting of 5 protestors at yet another killing of an unarmed Black man by Minnesota police. This on the anniversary week of Tamir Rice’s killing and officer Darren Wilson’s non-indictment over the killing of Mike Brown.

Here’s what we know from psychology — groups feel tension when they “threaten” each other, whether it’s for an NBA Finals game or politics. In the prior examples, there is only one thing to be won — a championship ring, a political position. But with regard to BLM, the irony is that a more equitable union would produce “wins” for all groups involved. Reduced psychological stress, better pay, improved (and more humane) living conditions in our community.

But, what some people perceive as a “threat” to their right to live as they have been living is really just fear and grief over the loss of their privilege.

Not every person angered by BLM will retaliate with gun violence (particularly given that those accused in Minnesota are part of a white supremacy organization), however, the increasing rhetoric perpetuated by the media (and political candidates — cue The Donald) regarding racism, Islamaphobia, and refugee entrance is absolutely cause for concern.

Our lack of racial literacy — or ability to read and recognize racial situations — will have people believe that Blacks are upset at yet another thug doing the wrong thing in the presence of a cop. Or that all those Muslims are conspiring when they sit together on the bus. Or that every person screened for a year entering into the US from Syria will finally hatch their plan when they arrive.

But isn’t it more true that the day to day actions that we wage toward each other are much more dangerous than any perceived threat? You rushing to cross the street from my brother (who, beyond all of his educational stats, is a human just like you)? My denial of a loan because of the way that I look? Our weariness of each other because of centuries of historical abuse and atrocities and the subsequent reactions we exact on each other?

Would it not be logical that this “group-think” would lead to greater separation, more festering, and potentially a plan to alleviate those concerns through lethal means? If you don’t believe it’s possible — you’ve missed the past year of news where people have been retaliating in a “race-war” style ambush against other groups, both White and Black.

It is quite necessary for us to engage in deeper dialogue with each other, our families, communities, and colleagues to address the longstanding and increasingly dangerous feelings that we have about race, among other identities, in our society. We are losing too many lives, and to the extent we can’t even protest about the lives lost without fearing more lives lost, we are moving in the wrong direction in 2015.

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