"Now I'm the new Nat Turner. Spread somethin' to the kids like Sojourner. Man, the truth." - David Banner, Ridin' ft. Talib Kweli and Dead Prez
Considering how much it's been on my mind this week, I thought I had a lot to say about this topic. My feelings about it are too visceral, though, I think. I'm struggling with finding the right words.
I mentioned Samhita's post earlier this week, where she struggles to find the context in which to talk about the relationship between the police and black people in the wake of Lovelle Mixon's Cop Killing Spree in Oakland. The vast majority of her feministing readers missed her point, which was:
While the conversation in mainstream media is really focused on Lovelle Mixon's history of crime, violence and imprisonment, let's try and change the dialog and have a honest conversation about police brutality, the production, harassment, imprisonment and murder of "angry black men" everywhere, and ways we can work collectively to bring peaceful solutions to our communities.
And I'll remind you that the murder of Oscar Grant is fresh in the minds of the residents of Oakland.
Thea Lim at racialicious tries to make sense of it all and fails. Her frustration is palpable:
Is it really impossible for us to have a conversation about the effect of racist, classist and cruel systems on the behaviour of Americans? Are we so thick-headed that we can't even consider that the state of the prison system or the racist nature of American policing somehow affected how Mixon saw the world and how he made choices?
Meanwhile, I'm thinking about the recent Real Sports story about Robbie Tolan
Robbie Tolan dreamed of following in the footsteps of his father, retired Major League Baseball outfielder Bobby Tolan. But in the early morning of Dec. 31, 2008, those dreams may have ended in a confrontation with police in affluent, predominantly white Bellaire, Tex. Wrongly suspected of stealing his own car, Tolan and his cousin were detained at gunpoint by police on the doorstep of his family's home. A moment later, Robbie Tolan's parents watched as their son was shot in the chest by a police officer.
and today's Dallas News about Ryan Moats
Officer Robert Powell had been placed on paid administrative leave in connection with the incident last week, in which he stopped a family rushing to visit a dying mother, keeping them for 13 minutes to write a traffic ticket. The woman died before two of the family members were able to see her.
I have nothing in common with Lovelle Mixon or Oscar Grant or Robbie Tolan or Ryan Moats except the color of my skin. I have never been in trouble in my life. Never been booked for a crime. Never committed a crime above traffic violations and jay walking (and even then, I was selected out of a crowd of violators for ticketing) but I will tell you this: I'm scared of cops.
You don't need to sell me on a police officer's value. I know the good they do. I respect your uncle the sheriff and your brother the probation officer. I really do.
But here's my truth--the scariest moments of my life are when police are in my vicinity. Driving behind me. Patrolling my neighborhood. Coming out the restaurant. Whatever. My heart starts racing. I start sweating. I start considering what possibly they could think I've done wrong.
In my head and in my heart, I believe that regardless of what I do, any interaction I have with a police officer could be the last thing I do on this earth.
The laundry list of black men, young and old, who have run afoul of an overzealous police officer is too long to recount. There are names you know. They are the same names I know. And again, I'm left thinking about someone like Robbie Tolan, in his own car, in front of his parent's house, shot. In the chest.
Ta-Nehisi Coates remarks on how Ryan Moats handled the situation is something to which lots of black men can relate. He says, It reminded me so much of how my mother taught me to deal with the police.
Why should anyone's mama have to teach them how to interact with people whose job it is to protect and serve...you?
So, you tell me -- should I be more concerned about the Lovelle Mixons of the world who I know to give a wide berth or the boys in blue who I'm supposed to trust but who, again and again, show me that's like playing Russian roulette?