I went to bed with a heavy heart last night, virtually unable to tell my remote control to shut down the television and resist enigmatic pull of Anderson Cooper and all the madness exploding in Ferguson, Missouri. I even took a shower, convinced that by the time I exited the hot steam and poured myself my favorite glass of milk, it would all be winding down.
It was not.
Amidst videos of people pouring iced water over their heads, a darker tragedy of a volatile nature has reemerged. As Chris Blow, a political commentator for CNN and reporter for the New York Times mentioned yesterday, the nation has essentially been simmering on this issue of race relations, and as previous tragedies have intimated, the pot is preparing to boil over. Trayvon Martin’s tragic situation and the trial that followed, along with other instances around the country, coupled with the immigration beast issues have created a maelstrom of seething anger and divisiveness in the United States.
How will this country withstand so much happening on the homefront, whilst President Obama deals with assaults from Republicans AND all the Middle East issues looming larger each day? Is our African American president really crippled as many seem to think, when it comes to taking a stand on the treatment of Black people in America? I don’t think so. I believe that there is still time for Obama to make his mark in his last years as president, especially since he cannot be reelected. He still has time to shed the politically correct cloak he’s been wearing and roll up his sleeves.
Nevertheless, my milk didn’t taste as delicious as it usually does as I saw the instigators and rabble-rousers manage to achieve their malicious intent to disrupt peaceful protestors and incite the authorities in Ferguson to use their riot tactics before I heaved a sigh and shut it down for the night.
This is another incident where everybody loses. Michael Brown, clearly a lost youth heading down the unfortunate but all too prevalent path towards a jail cell, was breaking the law with petty foolishness and lost any chance he had to live a productive and satisfying life by being gunned down unnecessarily. My partner says he should have been playing football somewhere, using his strength productively, perhaps on a scholarship somewhere. That’s how Mike Tyson got a chance to get off the streets and use his natural talents proactively. But he had mentors and people who snatched him up and steered him towards a better life.
The police officer who shot Mr. Brown also lost, because he is probably going to face charges for this recklessness on his part and his life will never be the same again. I don’t believe he started his shift that day with the intent to “take a nigger down” as someone told me recently. It seems like this situation escalated on knee-jerk reactions, some of it based on the young man’s size and combined with adrenaline, led to an unfortunate end. Clearly police protocol and sufficient back-up personnel were not in place as this nightmare unfolded so rapidly.
From the perspective of humanity, not race factors, both these men have lost their lives.
But who am I? I’m not the mother who lost a son, or the cop who is probably watching everything he had ever hoped for get flushed down the toilet. I’m not even the relative of either of these men.
I am however, the partner and lover of a Black man, who stares racial discrimination in the face every day. I am the mother of two bi-racial girls, girls who I would give my life for, who I fiercely try to protect from a Southern environment where they are judged instantly by White people. Yesterday, for instance, we went to the library and my daughter in her excitement to get in the door, exclaimed that when she grew up she wanted to own her own library (I laughed) because she wanted to be able to walk up and down the aisles and be able to read any book she wanted. For the three of us the online card catalogue is a shrine and we love searching for books that interest us. Sadly, the computer database was down yesterday and we moped over to the librarian at the counter, who was happily smiling at the lady in front of us in line and helping her with her search. When it was our turn however, the librarian’s smile was nonexistent and her answer to our questions were curt and dismissive. Condescending, as though our brown skin would somehow infiltrate the books entrusted in her care.
At a base level, I wanted to leap over the counter and shake her fat face, kick her in her fat ass and tell her, “Do you know who I am??? I have an IQ triple those of you and your whole entire redneck family. I was born and raised in New York City and can crush you. I have defied stereotypes and paid my way through college, survived abuse and given birth to six beautiful, intelligent children. Don’t you dare speak to us this way!”
But my upbringing and my education squelched my baser instincts and forced me to square my shoulders, check myself and enunciate extra carefully to this small-minded librarian our needs.
As the mother of two beautiful brown-skinned intelligent young ladies, and a woman who loves fiercely this strong, proud Black man, who has served his country, educated himself, and is striving to protect and provide for his family, I am a woman who worries.
Ultimately, I also carry guilt because as an educator who has taught in inner city schools and seen the hopelessness prevalent in these teenagers — as I once devoted my life to doing — I feel I should be back on those front lines. I should be using my degree and teaching license to serve those who really need someone to give a damn about them because I firmly believe that education is the key to rising above tragic situations like Michael Brown’s. Education is the key to bringing communities together, to working towards a better life. When you are educated about men like Ghandi, and study cultures who historically have faced adversity through sticking together, then they can inspire revolutions of hope and maybe, just maybe African Americans can begin the process of breaking the hard-wired chains of slavery that still linger generationally and keep them from realizing their true strength and power as human beings.