So, you’re having a good day chillin’ with the fam and your big-headed little brother wants you to get him some Skittles. Go on and hook your li’l homey up. No problem. The store is just 10 minutes from the house which is in a gated community. A gated community! You got no problems in a gated community…until you realize that the gate was left open and the problem, young brotha, is you.
I think we’ve gotten used to black folks being thought of as a problem but in our circles, it was truly always “their” problem. This unstated distinction maintains the necessary distance between our kind of black people and “their” kind of black people so that we could justify our inaction while black folk in the hood were navigating their way home through veritable war zones. We watch from the sidelines as Philadelphia decomposes into Mogadishu and Detroit devolves into Baghdad because even though we may not live that far from these American cities geographically, the space between us might as well be light years. “Those” blacks…and us.
And the ugly truth is those light years help us to dissociate from the the horror and rage of our own people being gunned down in the streets because of the color of “their” skin times the hopelessness of “their” circumstance divided by “their” own desperate choices. You know who “those” people are cuz it’s a small black world and very few of us are without a connection to the hood…everybody knows your Big Mama been in that house 65 years and she ain’t goin’ NO-where. Not to mention, visiting certain cousins and play cousins surely means getting dragged all over the hood, eating good while dodging bullets. And you know good and hell well your aunties ain’t never leaving that church, you know the one next to the “lickastow.” (Thank you for the correct spelling, Ki-Ki-Kins)
So despite evidence to the contrary, we cling to the hope that the proverbial tracks will not only separate us from “them” but more importantly distinguish us from “them.”
Sadly, Trayvon Martin reminds us that the distinction between us and “them” is a construct of our well-heeled, gainfully employed, proper-talking, college-educated imagination. That gunman did not know that Trayvon Martin was one of us. That’s not his fault. He probably doesn’t know that many of us. But he’s probably come across quite a few of “them” or perhaps he watches BET. And you know the saying, “If it looks like a duck…then shoot that muthaf$#%” From a distance, we all look the same to white folk…and don’t you damn forget it. Don’t let Chris Rock fool you…there is NO us and “them.” Just us. But no justice for us.
Beautiful, brilliant black children are being gunned down and otherwise destroyed in the hood every day without the requisite outrage afforded to the same offense against beautiful, brilliant, black middle-class children. As long as it’s “those” kids, it never hits close to enough to home. Move that home across town and put it behind a gate…now we got some problems. The truth is Trayvon Martin is one more reminder of America’s disregard for black life regardless of class or status. We’ll all get our panties in a bunch and some mighty white force will swoop down and arrest the gunman and we’ll all rest in the assurance that America loves us, too. We’ll be so distracted by all that damn love, we won’t even see the knife coming straight for our collective back. So, yes, be outraged and indignant but be so each time you hear of black children being killed, abused or disregarded…even the ones in Compton.
I know it’s hard, black people. And if it’s hard for us, imagine how hard it is for all the good white people who are, I’m sure, completely appalled at yet another incident to pile on top of their mountainous burden of white guilt. Well, some of them are. The others are re-loading. They didn’t all vote for Obama…so watch your ass and your son’s ass, too. Tell him that he is the best thing that ever happened to you. And let him have the big piece of chicken. And hold him just a bit tighter when you tell him you love him. He’ll probably be suspicious at this point, and maybe even a bit scared, once you do all that…but that’s okay. Because we, as a society of all races, owe our black children an apology for failing to give them a safe place in this world, where they can be loved and valued and certainly not murdered in the street without consequence.
My heart goes out to every mother who has buried a child just because he looked like us. We are supposed to pray on our children, not prey on our children.
DISCLAIMER: No white people or uppity ass black folk were harmed in the writing of this post.