A few weeks ago, I came across the horrific story of how a Chicago 15-year-old girl had been raped on Facebook live. Naturally, I was saddened by this. I knew violent things would continue to show up on Facebook Live. That’s why I stopped watching the police shooting videos and I don’t rush to watch most people’s live-streams. There is a clear disregard for the sanctity of black life in this world. We see it when we are left dead and uncovered in the streets for hours after police shootings. We see it when graphic pictures of black death from terrorist attacks are freely posted on social media. And we will continue to see it until it becomes a problem for white people and the rest of America.
I went from being sad at hearing the story of the live-streamed gang rape to being angry at the charges that face the first person arrested in this case. A 14-year-old boy was the first person charged. (I have to quiet my legal mind that wants to know if his parents and attorney were present and active during the investigation.) All the suspects being investigated are minors. There are six juveniles in total, according to the Chicago Chief Police Superintendent. Now, while the specific demographics of this child haven’t been released, I’ve assumed that the suspects are black. (The victim’s last known location before she was assaulted is in North Lawndale, Chicago which is over 90% black.) According to a statement from Chicago Police, the teen suspect faces charges including aggravated criminal sexual assault and manufacturing and disseminating child pornography, police said in a media statement. Just one of these charges alone can be devastating for a black child. And the possibility of having to register as a sex offender when you are younger than your victim?!?! It makes my brain hurt and my heart cry at the same time.
Maybe you can have one child who is a “bad apple” and intentionally attacks another person. But six children? And 40 heartless viewers? Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they should go unpunished. But my goodness, what is going on in the world today? My natural reaction is to say that the system has failed. But my ancestors and my spirit tell me that the system is working just as it was intended.
Most Americans refuse to allow themselves to understand that slaves were believed to be animals, cattle, property and were treated as such. Then slaves were forced into becoming sharecroppers under the guise that they owed their former slave owners for decades of food and shelter. Then black people were forced into separate and dramatically unequal schools, jobs, and housing arrangements. All the while, practically every white member of society through their individual racist actions also removed pride, knowledge of self, and independence from black people through marginalization, lack of education, and the threat of death. The system has been working so well for so long that many people think that African-Americans suffer today because of their inability to educate themselves, create stable families, or otherwise do better for themselves.
This is such a narrow-minded understanding of a complex 400+ -year-old situation. Parenting in the black community is worse than a double-edged sword. Raising a black child is full of an infinite amount of catch 22 situations. Only the descendants of slaves in America can understand how statistically improbable it is to raise a healthy, self-aware, un-apologetically intelligent, calm, and happy black child in America.
Americans have continuously refused to allow themselves to begin to see life through the eyes of slave descendants. Most people first learn their self-worth from their family. How is a slave who had their name, culture, language, and pride literally beaten out of them supposed to pass down self-worth? Many people get their intellect, financial understanding, and business savvy from their parents or close family members. How can a descendant of slaves who wasn’t taught to read, count, or allowed to own anything teach a child to be financially and economically strategic? Many people learn the importance of love, companionship, and family loyalty at home. How can those things be taught when slave families were intentionally broken up by the sale or murder of male slaves and rape of female slaves by their slave-master and overseer?
It has only been 52 years that African-Americans have been born in America without any restriction on their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness*. What in the world can you really expect in 52 years? And now, the system that allows black pain, violation, and death to be viewed on the news and social media is now going to throw the book at a group of young children accused of assaulting this young girl. The assailants definitely need to be charged, but charged as the juveniles that they are. The viewers of the live-stream should also be charged as the viewers of child pornography that they are. But what happens to the people who orchestrated and continue to prosper from the environment that allows this type of behavior to be viewed. What happens to Facebook given that they don’t monitor their live platform for illegal violent activity? (To my knowledge, Facebook doesn’t monitor its live-streams. It merely asks people to report live content that violates it community policy.)
The sheer fact that no one cared about the number of unsafe, illegal, and unhealthy things that would be put on Facebook Live is indicative of our current society. A culture of people who don’t remove themselves from their own comfortable world to consider the challenges of other people in their own neighborhoods, cities, and states. While trying to bring information, freedom, and water to the world, no one is working to help the poor, disadvantaged people of color in our own country.
Why, in 2017, must I still agree with Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hamer and still be “sick and tired of being sick and tired?” This is not 1964!!!
Without access, opportunity, exposure, and education, these horrible things will continue to happen. It’s not a problem with parenting. There’s a problem with how we care for each other as a society. Everyone is just so damn selfish. We only speak up on things that affect us. But, newsflash, it all ends up on our doorstep eventually.
If you want African-Americans to believe that you care for us, you have to show up for us. When we say something is racist, you should take our word for it. If you aren’t African-American, your rubric for evaluating racism is either non-existent or likely from the perspective of the oppressor. Consider our 400+ year relationship with it and give us the benefit of the doubt of knowing when something is racist.
You have to show up when your only reason for being there is for a love of humanity and your desire to give me and mine the same opportunities that you and yours take for granted. You fight back when you want to keep your health care plan because people will die. So when children are hungry and dying because of lack of opportunity and education, you should also fight. You march and speak up for women’s rights, so you should also speak up when a record-making number of Black and Latinx girls go missing with practically no news coverage (especially if you call yourself feminist). And if you are actively involved in your child’s education, you should make sure that poor children have the same exact education that your children have; not just access to it.
So, next time you see a horrific story on the news, ask yourself what you can do so that doesn’t happen again. And I’ll give you a hint, increasing police presence in “those communities” is NOT the answer.