Friday, July 30, 2010

Just Thinking

At a crime scene the other day, the head of a young black man lay cheek down on step, while the coroner's office prepared to take him away.

Another young man watched the grisly scene and couldn't stop shaking his head. He'd come to the scene to see if the body belonged to someone he knew, and left with thanks on his lips because it didn't. The young man turned to me and said simply "Something needs to be done."

We both knew what he meant. Death visits black men in my city far too frequently and far too soon. People don't ignore the violence, but they've come to accept it as part of the landscape. As the young man said "Nobody seems to think it's important."

Some things have become accepted facts of life in America: Black men will be gunned down on a nightly basis, and the police will use that violence to abuse and denigrate mostly innocent black men. It's the cycle of life. Our violence provides a ready made excuse for the violence of those charged with protecting and serving.

And people will continue to shake their heads and assume that's the way things have to be.

But, they really don't. Young black men do not have to live fast and die young, and a police horror story is not a prerequisite for manhood. Those things are not immutable laws of life no matter what we have internalized and been taught to believe. Things can change if enough of us demand a change.

But how?

First, black people have to demand that ALL of us be treated as American citizens, with the full rights of citizens. We can no longer afford to classify ourselves as "good niggers" and "bad niggers" when it comes to the rights and privileges afforded us by the police. We can no longer accept that the police will have to break a few eggs to make their safety omelet. That sort of reactionary and unimaginative thinking is what led us to the inane crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and the rapidly growing prison underclass of black men.

We have to have the courage and fortitude to stop expecting other folks to solve our problems. In turn we have to stop being willing to sacrifice our freedoms to get those problems solved. Crime is a terrible blight, but that doesn't mean we have to accept harsh and illegal police tactics to feel safer.

We don't have to eliminate people's rights to make the world a better place. That's fool's gold. We can demand equal treatment from the police, and, if necessary, we can police our own communities to reduce our dependence on outside forces. We have that power.

As for the problem of young men dying, we need to join with the thousands of people across this country who are working to the slow kill of our families and communities. We need to first change mindsets, then change environments and ultimately we will change lives. So many of the young cats I meet can't seem to find the middle ground that allows most of us to be productive and fairly happy individuals. They either dream massive dreams, or they don't seem to dream at all.

We need jobs, we need education, we need God. But, most importantly, we need each other to care. Yes, the lifestyle some people lead is one that will have few positive outcomes. Yes, some of these young men who are killed are hardcore, terrible criminals who would kill anyone just as fast as they would say "What's up?"

But, not only are those folks the minority, even they are not irredeemable. We have to stop sacrificing so many of our folks at the altar of "respectability." Standards are important, but too often many of us permanently attach our hands to our backs and a stick to our anuses. We're so caught up in congratulating ourselves on how we "made it" that we forget that "making it" shouldn't have been the only goal.

We have to start caring again.



Clifton said...

What's up Big Man,
I'm 36 years old and when the violence really started to turn bad in my early teens it was a huge deal when someone got murdered. I don't know when it started feeling so routine and I don't know what can bring the emotional impact back to the problem.

As long as too many people look at murder as an acceptable way of resolving things then I don't know when it's going to end.

jtnot said...

As you know Big Man, there are many variables to the lack of caring that exists in this world, not just in our communities. In our community, however, there seems to be a prevailing mindset which sees the world as an unfair place with not enough for everyone,
"So I gotta get mine and you better not get in my way! Cause it just ain't fair how me and my family have had to live for so many years, and other people have had opportunities just handed to them. So yeah, I'm angry, and you don't want to get in my way and become the object that I take my anger out on. You don't want to have me feeling disrespected or slighted in any way. And don't think I'm some monster. Those boys around the corner who go around robbing,jacking, and killing people just to come up are the monsters. I'm just trying to get me. But I do play by those Goon rules. So don't mess with me or get in my way. Cause then I don't care nothing about you, yours or even my future. It's survival of the fittest. In a jungle full of animals, where is the room for love when you're trying to survive?"
Just my thoughts Big Man.

Big Man said...


I remember when the violence first got really wild down here, back in the early 90s. somebody was getting popped everyday, and it was kinda sorta a big deal, but not that much. However, compared to the attention it gets not, I can see how it seemed like a big deal.


You summed up the mindset pretty well. People of all kids are willfully blind

Raving Black Lunatic