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?
Last night I watched Iyanla Vanzant in Ferguson. I honestly didn’t want to. I knew it was going to be a train wreck. I loved Iyanla before her reinvention. I healed and learned a lot from her books. I honestly feel her strength was speaking to women about the things she lived, the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned. Since her re-emergence I have been disappointed time and time again with her and her show. She is claiming to be an expert in waters way too deep for her. In her attempts to “heal” or “fix” people she has exploited hurting people in their most vulnerable moments. I’m not here for it.
Last night she was a prime example of how racism can effect Black people. She showed her entire viewing audience (of 5 people) exactly what it looks like when Black people internalize all of the negative scripts pushed to the public about us. She asked the chief of police what he wanted. He asked for 2 weeks to complete the investigation. Iyanla was quick to comply and encourage each person she interacted with to comply as well. The rest of the show she touted this 2 week deadline, emphasizing that there should be peace during this time period while the police work. *Record scratches* Is this the same chief of police who released a video of Mike Brown in a convenience store to tarnish his reputation? Is this the same man who released this video on his own volition after being advised not to by his superiors in law enforcement? Is this the same man who allowed the officer who shot Mike to get away with NOT filling out an incident report? Is this the same man who sicced a militarized police force on citizens who protested peacefully? With all sincerity, I have to say, “Girl bye!”
She sat down with a group of young men whom she, “picked up off of the street,” (her words, not mine). She repeatedly said she was there to listen and then talked over, interrupted and corrected each person she interviewed. She asked them over and over if they thought they were responsible for their own murders at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve since they, “kill each other.” Come on son. Seriously??? Iyanla has so completely brought in to the manufactured term Black on Black violence that even in the midst of the palpable pain these people are experiencing she blames them. I’m going to say it once again for those of you who are new to reality. Black on Black violence is a manufactured term. Crime is about proximity and opportunity. EVERY race of people kills their own because we still live such segregated lives. And Black crime in America is actually on a faster decline than White on White crime.
Crime is a problem. Peace loving, law abiding citizens everywhere are bothered by crime. Crime is not specific to Black people. We are not inherently more violent or criminal than any other race. Some of you are itching to disagree with me right now. What about gangs? What about what I see on the media? There is a purposefulness to the narrative we are being fed by the media. I don’t purport to know with certainty their motivation but I have some theories. I am not saying that Black America is innocent. My heart breaks when I see the headlines about children shot and young men murdered. But I am aware that the story is more complex than the media is willing to address. Our children are criminalized from a young age. Suspension and expulsion rates for Black children soar above those of White children. Arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of Black people is disproportionate to that of their White peers. Studies have shown time and time again that White people walk for things that Black people are locked up for. Systemic racism has consequences and casualties.
Blaming Black people for their own murders by the people sworn to protect and serve is a blatant display of Iyanla’s sickness. It is a clear that she has swallowed the false narrative written about us. I wanted to scream at her time and time again as she interrupted these young men to ask them leading questions, “How many of you have been arrested?” Really Iyanla? Really? “How many of you know your fathers?” Bitch please sit down. All communities have issues. Black America has many. Yes, we need people to come together and work towards filling in the gaps but I sincerely believe that was not the time nor the place. She missed the forest for the trees. It hurt to watch. She exploited those people and their pain to reinforce a false narrative that has made it okay for cops to murder us with impunity.
The ONLY ray of light in her hour and a half long show was her 4 ps. Pause, Plan, Prepare, Participate. This movement was born from pure emotion. There is value in organization. There is value is affirming the goals and how we are going to accomplish them. I’m glad she asked them THOSE questions. That was helpful.
I honestly wish I hadn’t watched. Iyanla pimped her people’s pain last night. She danced for the system and encouraged them to dance along. I’m not here for it.