An open letter to the American people
Dear American Public,
Please turn off your TVs. Our black voices have been tuned out for far too long. We are all conditioned to think the Civil Rights revolution has already been won in America. Our parents and grandparents fought tirelessly for respect and marched hundreds of miles in protest for the liberation of our people. Yet the commemoration of Black History Month has become monotonous praise of a manipulated version of our truth. People recite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous quotes on nonviolence in the same breath that they call us “thugs” and “animals” to justify our bloodshed. Because even though the Civil Rights movement paved the way for black people in America to graduate from Ivy League schools and even become president of our nation (for two terms), there is a far greater majority of people in the black community who continue to be invisible. Dissonance has grown in our community because some people are reaping benefits from this capitalist structure, but many others are left in poverty, incarcerated or left lifeless in the street. As I watch people from all backgrounds rise in the call for justice, protesting in the aftermath of black lives lost at the hands of senseless police brutality, I want our message to remain clear.
Mainstream media outlets almost exclusively memorialize the losses of cisgender black males that have been killed by police officers. Conveniently, they also highlight deaths of victims with criminal records, allowing for the public to assume their guilt, inspiring citizens to say things like, “Officers are just doing their job. He got what he deserved. Maybe if he didn’t…”
Americans love an episode of, “Dead Thug, Good Cop.” But this is only one of many battles we are fighting in the black community.
While I am not detracting from the losses of Michael Brown, Walter Scott or Freddie Gray, I am broadening the spotlight on atrocities inflicted upon our community as a whole. We are all living on the front lines, yet we can’t depend on our own brothers and sisters to join with us as allies. Dissonance in our black community and dissonance with privileged America is only delaying black liberation in this country.
We as a people are being condemned for recent “violence,” but no one has condemned an officer for failing to serve and protect. No one will dare condemn a government that lacks order and justice. Black people are all being held accountable for the ruin of vacant buildings and businesses in Baltimore, black people are all being held accountable for destroying communities that were built on our oppression, communities that don’t blink an eye when we’re murdered by police, communities that only hear us when our frustration personifies as broken windows. We as black people are expected to remain calm and peaceful, taking every bullet to the chest with a smile.
CBC Senior Washington Correspondent Neil Macdonald, a veteran with the network, wrote in a column: “I don’t mind saying it: America’s police now frighten me. Their power and impunity frighten me. And I’m a white, 58-year-old middle-class man. I can’t imagine what I’d be feeling if I were a black or latino kid in Baltimore.” He noted a study by the Cato Institute that showed in 2010 alone, there were 4,861 formal incidents of police misconduct that led to 247 civilian deaths. “If just a fraction of those fatalities were criminal, then the inescapable conclusion is that more people have been murdered by police in America in the last 10 years than by terrorists.”
There is no national media coverage when we march in peace for nine days straight (#March2Justice – April 13-21st). There is no national media coverage when we are casted away from employment because of our melanin. There is no national media coverage on the catastrophic events throughout history that have oppressed and slaughtered my people in cold blood. Following Gray’s funeral, we patiently waited to hear an explanation of how he died in police custody. Gray’s neck and spinal cord injuries still remain a mystery — but what we know for sure is that black people are suffering from state violence more than anyone in this country.
Black people are unemployed at twice the rate of white people (11.5 percent), nearly half of the total prison population is black men and women, and the murders of black people by police officers are skyrocketing. We are not free in America. The media is conditioning people to fear an uprising. I watched as prestigious sororities gathered in dignity to organize a response to the social injustice, but they were quickly labeled as “gang members” on CNN.
While men in blue perpetuate a thriller movie-esque narrative of their days on the job, constantly in fear of losing their lives to serve and protect the community, police officers are not even ranked in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ top 10 most dangerous jobs, interestingly enough. The number of officers killed in gunfire while making an arrest in 2014 is virtually nonexistent. Officers have spent long hours in training shooting black targets in the head for practice, successfully desensitizing them from treating us as human beings. I can’t erase the sickening sound of Michael Slager’s laugh after he shot Walter Scott eight times in the back.
Last June alone, the tragic deaths of four trans women of color in Ohio went unnoticed because their cases didn’t qualify as sensational storylines for an episode of “Dead Thug, Good Cop.” The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported that trans people of color represent an alarming 67 percent of all LGBT-related homicides. And up until last September, it was legally justifiable to murder someone identifying on the LGBT spectrum using a transphobia or homophobia “panic” defense; a vote of 50-10 made California the first state to ban queer and trans panic defenses.
Blacks that have segregated themselves from the struggle still weighing down our community often throw out the rhetoric of “black on black” violence, a narrative coined by infrastructure designed to further oppress our people in America. It is no secret that white on white crime occurs on a much more drastic scale than the incidents of violence that occur in inner-city neighborhoods. It is absurd to single out black crime, to in turn neglect the mass murders, serial rape, molestation and otherwise criminal behavior of white people that have forever severed families in our nation. Where are the prominent leaders speaking out against the propelling destruction that is white-on-white violence? Where were the helicopters during the Huntington Beach riots after the end of 2013’s U.S. Open of Surfing?
Many people, including celebrities experiencing the dissonance I mentioned earlier, will attempt to tell black people how to handle systemic racism and oppression. However, black liberation is something this country has never seen before. We can’t condemn our brothers and sisters for fighting back by any means necessary. We can’t condemn our brothers and sisters for revolutionizing. We can’t condemn black people in America for following in the footsteps of the leaders before us.
You should be worried that the American government has declared a war in its own yard, against its own citizens. From my window, I can see National Guard troops are being deployed into city streets, preparing for a war on citizens whose only demand is justice.
My God, if America cared about the open season on black people as much as endangered honey bees…
C. Elizabeth, A Conscious Soul
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