4 Ways I Stay Sane as the State Executes My People in the Street

Posted on January 4, 2016

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There was no “Tamir Rice Case”. Tamir was not on trial nor did he commit a crime. Tamir was a 12 year old playing with a toy gun (in a state where white people are allowed to openly carry real guns) playing in a playground.  This is case about Officer Timothy Loehmann, the City of Cleveland Police department and District Attorney’s office. Tamir Rice suffered from a sanctioned killing by the state, and I am one of millions of people trying to not go batshit crazy about it. Maybe find a life lesson from it to move on from.

The only new life lesson I could pull from the whole incident is to not be that 911 caller.  Don’t be the adult who sees that a black child needs to be told a life lesson (in this instance not to play with toy guns as if they are real) and expect the police to come and do it for you.  That is not the police officer’s job.  “Serve and protect” is like “How ya doin?”.  It’s just something you say.  The police officer’s job is to be able to prove that they were afraid of a black male, justifying whatever action they take after that.  There are officers who choose to go beyond that, and treat their black constituents like people, but all they are required to do to dodge indictment by the law is prove that the black person made them afraid enough to do it.  “It”, meaning absolutely anything from beating to shooting them.

tamir familyIf the children are in your neighborhood, they are your responsibility.  If you don’t feel comfortable approaching a child behaving in a way that endangers themselves or others, call your neighbors. Know your neighbors.  Talk to the child as a group. Go to the child’s parents.  A stern voice and a loving heart is not how police are trained to deal with your black child.  That has to come from the people in the neighborhood.

For the second time in a year, a black man carrying a toy gun (in a state that allows men to carry real guns) was shot down without given a chance to know what was going on.  People more versed in law will come up with more salient points to try to illuminate this reality for those who still don’t get it.  I made Facebook posts and satirical videos based on the Christmas Story trying to explain the absurdity of this whole case, but I realize that trying to get people to get it isn’t where the hard work is.  

My job, at this point, is to maintain my sanity in a country that I pay my taxes to, and pledge allegiance to, even though it still does not see me as human.  Somehow, I have remained eternally optimistic about my life, my future, and the future of our children in this country, despite seeing it snuffed out on video at the whim of an emotionally unstable employee of the state.  How have I done this? Is it naiveté? Is it faith? Is it insanity?  Maybe it is a combination of the three.  I’ve only recently tried to figure out what it is that keeps me going mentally and emotionally.  Here is a short list of the few things I know comforts me in this situation.

  1. MY VIOLENT RAGE IS RIGHTEOUS

“Negroes
Sweet and docile, 
Meek, humble, and kind: 
Beware the day
They change their minds!

Wind
In the cotton fields,
Gentle breeze:
Beware the hour
It uproots trees!”

– Langston Hughes

A key thing for me to remind myself is that my thoughts and feelings of violent revolution are completely justified.  The fact that I want to rage out violently against those attacking my people only makes me human. The famed original Boston “Tea Party” was simply looting and vandalism of private property for a political cause.  Them destroying property over their taxes was noble, but people destroying police cars driven by people who can kill them with impunity is madness? The only way that is logical in the mind a U.S. citizen is if the person rebelling against the state is black. My teachers made sure (especially as a black child) that I knew who Crispus Attucks was.  They probably didn’t mean for the lesson that I gleaned from his story to be that when the government shoots at unarmed citizens for protesting in the streets, it’s time to shoot back. The founders of the United States of America went to war over their tax rate, and I’m barbaric for wanting to defend the life of a child?

The idea that I, at my core, I have no problem using violence to protect unarmed 12 year old boys from being shot down, is not barbaric. It’s more justifiable than anything George Washington ever shot someone for.  The question of violence versus nonviolence is one of strategy, not righteousness.  Allowing that anger to be is crucial. Allowing that anger to take over you could be fatal. I’ve recognized that my humanity is not measured by my ability to take a beating, but at the same time I’m trying find what to do constructively with my anger.  I see myself in the victims.  I’ve taught more boys named Trayvon than I can count on both hands. The idea that I could lose half my family in a hail of bullets at one Wednesday night bible study is completely real to me. My want to respond extremely is natural, I must make sure how I respond is rational.

  1. I DON’T BLACKSPLAN

“If you don’t understand racism/white supremacy, everything else that you think you understand will only confuse you” – Neely Fuller

There are hundreds of books and instructional videos aimed at teaching those indoctrinated into the theories of white supremacy how to love black people. I will spend no more time explaining to someone why a 12 year old does not need to be shot while playing in a playground. I will spend no time explaining why a boy should be allowed to walk home to his father’s house, and fight anyone to the death who is trying to prevent him from doing so. People will learn in their own time, in their own way, it is not my mission to prove that to them. It is my mission to keep those ignorant of the humanity of my people far away from us.  I can’t explain to them how significantly privileged they are to live in a country that has always, since day one, thought they were human.  And on that note…

If you’d like, please wear your Confederate flag. Only three kinds of people flaunt confederate flags, racist people, ignorant people, and racist ignorant people.  Either you don’t like black people and are proud of it, or you literally ignorant of the history of racism in this country and the symbolism that goes along with it. The ignorance many times is more dangerous than the racism. I need to be able to identify those kinds of hateful or stupid people from three blocks away. I am not interested in teaching you how to hide your hate of black people long enough to be cordial in public. I’m not interested in sacrificing my body or my time to teach you that I am a fellow child of god. I know enough white people who were raised right, or who followed their own path and came to the same conclusion. We are all humans.

What I will do, is try to understand the system of white supremacy I was born into. I will call it out everywhere I see it.  I will understand that the backlash against “political correctness” over the last 20 years is just white supremacist not being able to spew their white supremacy without a challenge.  I will explain blackness to black people in an effort to strengthen our community, not teach blackness to outsiders in an attempt to make them color blind.  I have realized that my best chance creating a better future for my family is not by proving how well I can integrate into the culture and economy that has oppressed me, but instead by living the reality of my sanity keeper number 3…

  1. I AM NOT A MINORITY

One of the most important things I do is remind myself that I am not a minority.  My people, people of color, people of African descent, black people, out number the ruling race and class. Where we are indigenous to holds all the resources the words needs.  This is why I am Black and not African-American.  I don’t limit myself to just the descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States. I am one with all the victims of theory of white supremacy and European imperialism everywhere.  It is comforting to know that the problem isn’t whether or not we are bigger and better than our enemy. The question is instead, when we will remember and acknowledge this as a people. It is simply a matter of time.  

Beyond race, what I’ve learned from life that it is that most people are “good”.  The vast majority of them, from all races and classes. Where most of them are “bad” or “evil” is in their unwillingness to identify and address the ways they benefit from pain caused on others by white supremacy and imperialism. Either they don’t recognize it, or think they are too small and insignificant to do something about it. If we all could tell our stories, at the root of them we want the same for ourselves and others. Happiness. We are just letting the hunters tell the stories, and they have made enemies of us all.

  1.  THIS LIFE ISN’T MINE

“We must start projects our grand-children will finish”

– Dr. John Henrik Clarke

I am part of a continuum, so I must finish the projects my grandparents started, and start projects my grandchildren will finish. It took 25 generations for them to entrench the slave system, and we’ve only been undoing it for 5 generations. That’s a finger snap in humanities timeline. I must have patience. I live in places where my skin color doesn’t matter as much as it does in most of America. I live ina time where my skin color doesn’t matter in ways that it used to. I know that change is possible.  I’m the descendant of the great migration north from southern Jim Crow.  I am product of some of the best parts of Marion Barry’s Washington D.C..  I don’t have to imagine that it might get better, I am a living example that it has gotten better.  This does not mean I don’t challenge the status quo, that I wait for my treasure in the next life.  But I understand that this will get better whether I see it happen or not, because I am the dream that my ancestors never saw.  

Our most significant contribution to humanity is our ability to learn from all the previous generations and our own, and impart that wisdom to the generations as far after us as possible. A crucial part of this is realizing the simple truth that you’re going to die. Get over it. Better yet, make an active list ways and reasons you’d like and not like to die. I have an active list of people I’d die for. I would die saving the life of a child. I would never die for any of my material possessions. I decided when I was of military age that I would never die in a war of U.S. aggression, even though I admired the military.  I would die for the people I call family and (for the very right reasons) my community.  My great-grandchildren (biological or not) will celebrate my accomplishments and the accomplishments of my ancestors, as they live in the world we created but never saw. Knowing this keeps me sane.

I love my life and my people, and that keeps me sane, but I make no guarantees about my sanity.  I haven’t buried a child killed by the state. I doubt if any of my sanity tricks works for the families of Tamir and Trayvon. I’d love to know what consoles you, what keeps you sane. Feel free to leave comments. Thank you!