Disclaimer:An old teacher of mine from Southwest Guildford High School posted the picture below. THe comments from his friends were angry over Colin K. kneeling in protest of police brutality. I was the only person of color that could explain from the perspective of a person of color, so I wanted to make sure that my response was well though out and thought provoking. I couldn’t say everything I wanted and needed to say on SM, so I decided to write it out here on my blog.
Maybe you don’t understand why the protests are needed, after everything that is going on I hope that you are gaining a better understanding. If it were the other way around, if it were non-people of color that were being shot and killed, and there was a protest, I dare say the attitudes would be much different. An arrest would be made immediately, the charges to the highest penalty, and the sentencing to the maximum amount. A knee being bent during a song about our country is NOT an attack on the people who fought for us. While those brave soldiers (and my dad is a retired from the army before you come at me) fought for us as a country, understand that we, black people and other people of color have been fighting for YEARS!! We have been fighting for equality, for acceptance, to be treated as equals for HUNDREDS of years.
I am an American who is tired of dealing with the stress of worry. I have a nephew who is excited to get his license in a month and twin nephews who are eleven but I am so scared that they’ll experience the things I have. Parents often have to have “the talk” with their kids about the birds and the bees or dating. Women have to talk to their daughters about periods and men have to talk to their sons about condoms and being a man. When your kids go off to college you talk to them about saving money, being responsible. To drink at legal age and responsibly, don’t do drugs, don’t smoke and learn the balance between school, work, and having a good time so that you can graduate successfully. But none of you will ever have to talk to your child about being black and what that means or what you might have to go through. We have to tell our kids and young people little rules like don’t wear your hood up on your hoodie, never stand with your hands in your pockets, always get a receipt when you buy something and always wear your pants on your hips with a belt. Everything is answered politely, use your manners and say please and thank you so that you have a chance at being treated like a human being. You won’t have to tell your kids that even if they get that degree or certification and get a high GPA, there is still a good chance that if someone who is white is up for the same job with equal or fewer credentials, they will get the job before you do simply because you are black. If they ever get pulled over there are specific rules you MUST follow to get out alive: keep their hands on the wheel in plain sight, make sure to keep their registration, insurance, and license in plain sight because you don’t want to appear to be reaching for anything. You must comply with everything you are told to do and have an even temper. Don’t raise your voice! You’re already a threat because of the color of your skin, if you raise your voice, now the officer “fears for his life” and it’s open season to shoot at will. Keep everything legal on your car at all times because you don’t want to be seen as a criminal or give them a reason to suspect you might be up to something. If you have a nice car make sure you have some sort of proof that the car is yours because you don’t want the cop to think you are driving a stolen car. Do all those things and you may have a better chance of making it home safely to your family. Granted you will be extremely irritated, but you will be alive! You can have nice things, but don’t wear too much jewelry because you might be thought of as a drug dealer. For God sake’s pull up your pants because you WILL be thought of as a thug, therefore an instant threat. (I will admit, that one bugs me too. I hate it. I don’t see a point, especially given the real reason behind the sagging pants, so I’ll give you that one.)
Is every police officer out here a bad cop? Absolutely not! Are all white people racist? HELL NO! Does everyone feel like a Colin kneeling during the national Anthem is a protest against the flag? Not at all. There is a constant ongoing debate about it. But until you know the fear of potentially losing your life or losing someone you love every single day for doing NORMAL things: jogging, sleeping, sitting in our houses, playing video games with our loved ones, spending money. Until you know what it’s like to have to pray every single day that your father, your brother, your nephew, your uncle, your cousin make it home every day alive? Until you have to watch what you say or how you say it for fear of being stereotyped as an “angry black man or woman” or a thug? Until you know what it’s like for people to look at you and think “she’s probably got a bunch of kids on section eight, with food stamps, taking our tax paying dollars” or “he probably has a whole bunch of kids running around” or “they must be cheating the system”. Or worse? Finding out that I don’t fit any of those stereotypes and say to me “You’re not like ‘them’! You’re different!”. Until you know and have felt the fear or have experienced those things you will never understand.
Fortunately for you, you don’t have to worry about those things. If you get pulled over, the worse fear you’ll have is paying a ticket. When your male family member leaves the house, you don’t even think twice about them coming home. You can sit in your house and not have to wonder if a police officer is going to come in and take your life for being in a house with your name on the mortgage/lease. You can go for a jog and not have to worry if the people in those neighborhoods are going to shoot you. Until you know what it’s like to be a person of color in America, and see your race being hunted, killed, judged, bad-mouthed, threatened and treated awful for having melanin in their skin, you won’t get it. Until you’ve been confused as to what can be done to stop these senseless killings over the color of your skin: silent protest doesn’t work, calm protest doesn’t work, violent protest sure as hell doesn’t work. Until you have taken the time to sit and talk to a POC to understand the concern and fear we have every day, you’re not going to understand how Colin kneeling during an anthem was not an attack against the flag but a simple CRY FOR HELP.
Please know I’m not attacking anyone, nor do I think that every non-black or brown person is the same. Coach was my teacher way back when he knows me and my heart. I’m just asking PLEASE try and understand how TIRED we are of burying our man and women for No. Damn. Reason other than the fact that we are black. Be blessed and have a fantastic weekend
*Thankfully the responding comments were positive.