This weekend I spent some time talking with a fellow artist/activist at a show. He shared with me that recent events have him depressed and that he doesn’t know what to do about it. In my set I had done pieces for Eric Garner and Mike Brown, then I finished with a piece I wrote for Sean Bell. He lamented that all of those pieces were relevant today. “I feel like I’ve been working so hard. We’ve been marching so long and we just aren’t getting anywhere. The work feels so pointless.” His words broke my heart in to a million little pieces because of their truth. It does feel pointless. I purposely chose to present my pieces in the order that I presented them so that people would FEEL what I am feeling.
I am weary. I am frightened. I feel impotent. I feel powerless to effect change. I have engaged in every avenue of protest available to me over the years. I have called prosecutors. I have marched. I have sat in. I have written to senators and chiefs of police. I have called elected officials. I have boycotted. I have spoken until I am hoarse. I have written enough poetry to fill volumes. I have reached across the racial aisle. I have sought to teach and to explain and to be relate-able. I have tried so hard. I have watched my friends try so hard.
And still…Mike Brown laid dead in the street for over FOUR hours.
And, as if that outrage wasn’t enough when the people raged they sent in tanks. They trained machine guns on civilians. They tear gassed peaceful protesters. They provoked people who were hurting and angry and just fed the fuck up. Then they hid their hands and laughed when those people rioted. “Look at those animals,” they snickered. People I know. People I respected. People who are the same color as me as well as people who aren’t said, “Those people make us look bad.” I ask you if the murder of an innocent isn’t a rage worthy occasion please tell me what is?
I watched the media pack up their bags and leave. I watched them and I knew the world would turn the channel as soon as CNN left. But I knew Ferguson wasn’t giving up. Leaving Mike Mike’s body in the street, shooting him down like a dog was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I watch Mike’s mother and father on T.V. and I literally FEEL their pain. His Mom can barely stand straight because the pain is so heavy on her. His father’s grief captured graveside is an image that will stay with me until I close my eyes for the very last time.
Something has to give. Something has to change.
We are hurting. Justice minded people are hurting so badly. My very talented friend is hurting so badly. His words have been stolen from him because the pain is so deep.
I recently had a conversation with someone I know. She asked me if the relationship between police and my community was really as bad as they were saying on TV or if it was only like that in bad neighborhoods? I respected her for asking. I tried to explain. I gave her examples. I told of friends who attended Ivy League schools and were still stopped by cops. I said, “I had a friend who used to keep his Princeton I.d. in front of his license so that when he was stopped by the police he could show he was a good nigger and maybe get out of the interaction alive.” She visibly recoiled at my use of the word Nigger. “Why would you say that word? Why would you use that word? I have never used that word.” I laughed. Because as much as she really did want to understand the word had more impact on her than Mike Brown’s dead body in the street. I used the word on purpose in the conversation. Why hide behind polite words when discussing the ugliness of our society? Why? It is EXACTLY what my friend thought when he slid that ivy league identification card over his license. It is exactly what those cops thought each time they pulled him over. It is exactly what I feel when I’m followed in a store or asked to prove that I can afford something. It is exactly the message sent when my entire community is hurting and the white world around me doesn’t even seem to register that pain. Nigger. Less than. Unimportant. Nigger.
It seems to me that some people think they aren’t racist if they have never used the word. I would rather they use it every moment of every day if it would foster HONEST conversation and change. These conversations should shock.
There is a HUGE segment of our population hurting and living in absolute fear. Why would nigger be more shocking than that?