Are our deaths so commonplace that people look at it as the way of life? Or do they just look at Black people as just entertainment?
When the news of no grand jury indictments of the murders of Sandra Bland and 12 year old Tamir Rice by the Waller County, TX and Cleveland, OH police departments respectively were announced, I was shocked and angry. I took to Facebook and wrote a post talking of the disappointment I felt. I then scrolled through my news feed and saw several other Black people expressing their anger, as well as Latino and Asian allies.
I kept scrolling, and not to my surprise I saw very few whites angry, if even talking about it. I thought to myself with all of the police terroristic acts that have been happening to Black people in the past 18 months, and this latest cases involving a Black woman and a Black child being killed no less, there would be some outrage right? No. The only thing remotely associated to Black people I saw were conversations about Drake’s Hotline Bling and Love & Hiphop New York. Many emotions went through my mind. I could not figure out why people could not see that the killing of Black people by the police is an epidemic.
Are our deaths so commonplace that people look at it is “the way of life?” Or do they just look at Black people as just entertainment?
A couple of years back I had a conversation with one of my best friends, a guy that I consider my brother. He of Latin dissent, and I, a Black man, were talking all things race. Sitting at a restaurant, my brother told me, “They love our culture, but hate us.” I paused for a second because I had never heard that concept before. I looked around the establishment and saw many white faces going about their business, as if there was not a care in the world.
He then continued by saying, “It’s cool to go to the Mexican part of town, get some tacos and feel all cultured, but better believe when they are tired, they can leave and go home. Go back to being white and talk about their experience.” I took that in deeply. My brother has always been a very pensive guy and that insight stayed with me.
Today I think of that often. I have come to the unfortunate realization that Blacks aren’t meant to be people, just vessels of entertainment in our society. We are looked at as hollow and only possessing culture that is meant to be enjoyed, eventually poached, and finally discarded. Our lives and causes mean nothing because we were seen as nothing.
Black people were brought to this country to be workers, to work for white people. Our ailments and health never matter. We were to cook, dance, play music, and produce. In 2015, the massacre of unarmed Black men and women by the police does not matter. It’s as if we are still here to cook, dance, play music, and produce.
I often think about what is so seductive about being Black. Is it our rhythms? The strength we derive from years of discrimination, abuse, and attacks? The freeness of self expression we have when we are amongst other Blacks? Our soul? I cannot put a finger on it, but wherever there is Black culture, whites will follow. I shouldn’t be surprised that many whites love everything about Black culture except for Black people; this has been happening for years.
In the early 1900’s, while Blacks were lynched, castrated, and murdered, whites loved hearing Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday. In the 60’s during the civil rights movement, Jimi Hendrix still packed the same crowds of white people that did not want a nigger living next to them. In 2015, young white girls sing along to Nicki Minaj but don’t care anything about Sandra Bland.
I remember talking to a young white woman at a local bar about the Black Lives Matter protests in 2014. She seemed dismissive and annoyed with the idea. “Why are you out there marching and protesting?” she asked.
“Because we are fighting for justice and to stop police terrorism,” I said.
She just turned her nose up and continued to listen to Soulja Boy, humming the lyrics to one of his crass songs. I shook my head. I guess as long as us Black folks make a catchy song, y’all are cool with it. But to talk about our treatment in America? How dare you!
I sometimes feel as if whites want all the benefits of blackness but none of the responsibility. I see it all the time: white people being fans of Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, and Kendrick Lamar. Singing the lyrics to their songs or dancing to the beat. Enjoying soul food brunches, and sometimes even visiting Black churches, humming along to Mahalia Jackson. But when it is time to protest and participate in actions against the injustices of Blacks in America, or even voice some support, everyone gets quiet. We put down the head phones, turn off the song, and return to whiteness. It’s as if Black culture is a vacation for some, almost slumming it – a diversionary trip from real life.
One thing that has always bothered me is the overwhelming support for the Paris attacks and not for the killing of Black men like Laquan McDonald or women like Rekia Boyd, both from Chicago. When the latest Paris attacks happened, hundreds of memes and pictures went up showing solidarity with Paris. Many people even changed their Facebook background pic to the French national colors. What if 1/10th of those people voiced the same outrage to the murder of Travyon Martin? Walter Scott? Mike Brown? Eric Garner?
Let’s look at the outpour of love and support for the recent LGBTQ marriage equality rulings. Everybody was so happy and in a celebratory mood. In San Francisco, people were dancing in the streets. Gay, straight, Black, white were in attendance, in solidarity. But where are the same white allies, gay and straight, when Mario Woods is shot in cold blood by the SFPD? Or even when our Black Trans brothers and sisters are murdered? There is barely a peep. But when a Black musical icon to the gay community performs such as Queen Latifah, the crowds can’t be packed enough.
It’s almost as if we can’t care for Black people the way we care for other tragedies. It’s not Sophie’s Choice, we can show compassion for both.
Recent white rapper Mac Miller tweeted to white rap fans “Where are you guys at when it comes to Black Lives Matter?” Many fans attacked him by saying that he shouldn’t be political and that Miller is “Using the music to divide people.” I sat back and read the exchange between Miller and “fans” of hip-hop. Miller doesn’t strike me as a rapper that talks about social issues, but I was pleasantly surprised when he brought up the topic. God forbid we ask the people that are the primary consumers of hip-hop if they care about the people that make it. That made me think where are all the white musicians that are “inspired” by Black music when these unjustly shootings occur? Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber? Where y’all at? Crickets…. For every Joe Strummer (RIP) there is a Robin Thicke. Purely benefitting from a historically Black sound but silent on civil rights issues concerning Black people.
This is not meant to shame and disparage white people. That does not solve anything not does it move us closer to a solution on how to dismantle racism. Nor is this meant to be a blanket indictment of all white people. There are some amazing activists and white allies that are out there putting in the work. I am friends with some.
I just want to point out the hypocrisy between enjoying what Black people bring to the table and caring about Black people. You can’t love my culture and not love me. You cannot take what you want and leave the rest. This is not a buffet.