I have written many articles on how I intend to teach my sons how to behave in the presence of cops, and why this information could someday save their lives. Each time I write about the absolute importance of preparing a Black child to deal with the ongoing harassment that they will be subject to, thanks to racist police departments across North America, some jackass shows up with statics to claim that the police are justified in their response because of the fact that Blacks are over represented in the penal industrial complex. This response is racist and denies the way in which minorities are specifically targeted and the effect of racism, under-education and poverty have on those who commit crimes. The truth of the matter is that though there are more Whites in prison than Blacks, Black people still represent criminality in the eyes of the law. This leads to a lifetime of harassment that can have a devastating toll.
I found the following article in the N.Y. Times.
WHEN I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.Nicholas K. Peart wrote specifically about his experiences living in N.Y. city, however the same story could be told by many people of colour living in North America, because despite the so-called post racial world that we live in, part of the role of policing today is to enforce White supremacy. This means the ongoing harassment of people of colour, which for some leads to a lifetime of living in fear. I would label some of the survivors as existing with PTSD but the fact of the matter is that we still have not entered the era when the word post is an accurate label.
One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”
I was stunned. And I was scared. Then I was on the ground — with a gun pointed at me. I couldn’t see what was happening but I could feel a policeman’s hand reach into my pocket and remove my wallet. Apparently he looked through and found the ID I kept there. “Happy Birthday,” he said sarcastically. The officers questioned my cousin and friend, asked what they were doing in town, and then said goodnight and left us on the sidewalk.
Less than two years later, in the spring of 2008, N.Y.P.D. officers stopped and frisked me, again. And for no apparent reason. This time I was leaving my grandmother’s home in Flatbush, Brooklyn; a squad car passed me as I walked down East 49th Street to the bus stop. The car backed up. Three officers jumped out. Not again. The officers ordered me to stand, hands against a garage door, fished my wallet out of my pocket and looked at my ID. Then they let me go. (Source)
We live in a world in which it is largely understood that people of colour, regardless of their gender, or sexuality are perceived of as violent, drug dealers, drug users, hyper sexualized and problematic, while Whiteness is understood to be the eternal victim. This ahistoric view only exists because Whiteness continues to ignore and actively negate the history of violence it has perpetrated against people of colour. Slavery ended years ago, but people of colour are still being slaughtered. Violence has not always taken the form of physical punishment, and in fact, on a daily basis it is often realized through impoverishment, character assassination, and a lack of education. Violence need not leave any physical markers to be understood as violence.
Black children exist with a scant few years of innocence, and the belief that they are equal, before Whiteness begins its project of othering and dehumanization. When I look at my six year old son, I know that he is in the last cusp of mental freedom, before the active persecution begins. It is important to note however, that through his access to media, and by media I mean everything from television, to the internet, to books, and movies, he has already begun to internalize the passive racism that Whiteness is so very proficient at.
The police are only free to perform in the manner that they do because they are the military arm of Whiteness. I know that there are cops of colour who do attempt to make a difference policing our communities, but they are overwhelmed and must still to some degree subscribe to the over arching message of oppression. To be of colour in this world, is to be a continual target of aggression and hatred, despite the fact that so many White people openly declare themselves to be non racist. Being called a racist has reached the level in the minds of many to being akin to a slur, though in actuality, it only really serves as a marker of privilege. No matter how well intentioned, or if your best friend in grade school was Black, to be White is to participate in passive racism at the very least, and to benefit from every single act of racism.
No matter how we struggle against our oppressor, until every single White person is actively engaged in challenging their privilege, the state of unequal in life, in every single social institution, and every single situation will continue to be a reality for people of colour. Reading this may cause shock, dismay and even outright denial, but until you are actively attempting to decolonize your mind, and challenging the status quo, you support the racist actions engaged in by police departments across North America. Pretty platitudes about shock and awe, get us nowhere.