The media has seeped into our psyches so deeply, that we are now arresting children. Until we demand more and better from our media, we will continue to be pawns in the game of minority roulette, simply searching for another hashtag to circulate through the chamber.
We need to have a talk.
So, let’s talk about the media. No, no..that’s too broad a topic. Let’s talk about the media and race. Still too broad? Okay, let’s break it all the way down so that it can forever be broken. Let’s talk about the media and race and culture, and how the media’s hypersensationalization of extreme events have completely hijacked any reasonable thoughts we could have about someone different from ourselves, and left us with a hauntingly myopic and stigamatized view of the world around us.
There. I think that did it. So let’s talk.
Yes. I said it. And I’ll stand by it. The media has COMPLETELY hijacked our ability to feel safe. It shows us control freak, trigger-happy cops who view black people as inherent threats, so black people eventually learn to fear and distrust the cops because hell, they’re killin’ us left and right. The media portrays black people (primarily men) as thugs, drug dealers and sex-crazed gangbangers who will steal your purse, car, dog and white teenage daughter while they’re at it. So eventually, the cops (along with the world) learn to fear and distrust the black man. And around and around the vicious cycle goes. However, this isn’t just a black thing. Oh no, not hardly. Let’s talk about ISLAM.
Yes, I”m going there. Specifically, I’m going to Texas. Irving, Texas as a matter of fact, where just yesterday a 9th grade boy with an arab sounding name (Ahmed Mohamed) was arrested in school for bringing a homemade clock in to show his English teacher. Did you catch that? He brought in a clock, that he made himself, to show his teacher, and was ARRESTED, and subsequently suspended for three days. For what, you ask? The official reason was “they thought it was a bomb”, but the real reason that no one will EVER admit to is “thinking while Muslim”. Yes. That’s what I’m calling it. Thinking While Muslim. If you are Muslim in this country, you better not ever have an inventive thought. And if you do, may Allah help you if you have the balls to bring it to fruition because here, the media says you blow shit up and we believe them. We’ll always believe them over you—even if you are a ridiculously smart 14 year old boy looking for accolades from your teacher, only to be reminded that “hey, it don’t matter how smart you are boy, you’s a Muslim. And Muslims blow. shit. up.”
Ain’t that right, media?
Up until recently (thanks to the good old media) I have never had the slightest bit of personal distrust for law enforcement. I was fully aware that black men had every reason to be distrustful (historically speaking and otherwise), and empathized with the heaviest of hearts for the men who had been killed for driving/walking/sitting/winking/breathing while black. However as a woman, I never really *felt* that distrust on a personal level. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew my place in the world. I have always been fully aware that even though I’m of mixed race, I am perceived as only black, and will be judged accordingly by some. Say what you will about that, but it is a well known fact in the black community that there are two sets of rules in this world, and majority rule does not apply to us. I was well aware of that. But up until Sandra Bland I took my womanhood for granted, thinking that my vagina would trump my pigment, Sandra proved me wrong. So did the fifteen other black women that died in police custody that month. Vagina be damned—I was black first and foremost.
Sandra’s death (murder?) shook me to the core, but I didn’t realize the lasting effects it would have until the other day. As I sat in Chipotle enjoying my lunch and reading a trashy magazine, I looked up and watched five police officers walk in. Pre Sandra Bland I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I’d have continued eating my food, gawking at celebrities on paper and probably felt a small internal sense of relief knowing that if anything was to go down, at least police were in the building to keep us safe. Post Sandra Bland, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I watch them walk in and try desperately, yet inconspicuously, to memorize faces and look for name badges. I watch them advance in line for a few moments before going back to my meal and magazine, deciding that I was being silly. Post Sandra Bland I notice them as they all pass me to exit the building after ordering and paying for their lunch, and all but jump out of my skin as one stops, puts his arm around me and asks what I’m reading. Post Sandra Bland I answer with a shaky voice and shaky hands, and close the magazine to show him the cover. Post Sandra Bland I feel a tinge of “what the fuck?” when he jokingly asks if I stole it because my mother-in-law had torn out her address before giving it to me. And post Sandra Bland I immediately explain the reason for the missing address label instead of just laughing him off. My life post Sandra Bland is intrinsically different.
Had I not been inundated with story after story about death after death of black boys, teens, men and women at the hands of law enforcement over the last two years, I can almost guarantee that I would not be experiencing what I can only describe as a Twilight Zone episode. You know, the kind where everyone is looking at you as you look at them and nothing yet everything is exactly as it seems? I’m grateful for life post Sandra Bland because I am more aware than I ever was in the past of exactly *what* my rights are should I ever find myself in a situation. But if I’m going to be 100% honest with you, I’m also pissed to high hell about life post Sandra Bland. Why am I wary of five police officers getting lunch? Why am I jumpy when all he’s asking me is what I’m reading? Why am I questioning why he’s questioning me, and not the white girl sitting two tables over? Why am I pissed that all this is running through my brain and now I can’t even enjoy my lunch?
Isn’t that gross? Isn’t it just vile and borderline inhumane how we have allowed the media to seep so far into our pyche that we are now arresting CHILDREN because THEY MAKE THINGS? Isn’t it disgusting that I have to question why a police officer made a joke with me, and isn’t it somewhat gut wrenching that that police officer may have second guessed his joke after he made it in the off chance that he feared it might be taken wrong? Isn’t it just plain old sad that I have to wonder why he chose to make that joke? And isn’t it eye-poppingly ironic that I’m using the media to bash the media for something that we are just as guilty of perpetuating as they are? We feed into and push along those stereotypes evertyime we clutch our purses, everytime we give a scornful sideeye, everytime we sit by and idly watch our babies die, and our children get arrested. We can demand #JusticeforSandraBland. We can #StandWithAhmed. But I fear that until we demand more, and demand better from our media, we will continue to be pawns in the game of minority roulette, simply searching for another hashtag to circulate through the chamber.
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