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Posted under: Race & Identity Opinion

No, we don't get used to it

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I’m sitting silently on the front steps of my summer apartment on the corner of N. Foster Dr & Fairfields Ave in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The air still tastes of despair with its uneven grey tones and haunting a.m. motion. Even the wind knows it carries tragedy. This is the morning after gun shots called me out into the the night. My three friends and I, after hours of discussions on race, are lunged into a field study when we hear shots fired. No one has slept. How could we, after walking around the corner to learn the familiar lesson of what happened to another black life, Alton Sterling? I'm with Amanda, who has stood beside me in Ferguson, Naima, whom I met in Baltimore, and Paul, a polite well-meaning white friend from college who protested with me in Ohio. They have been on the phone all morning speaking with relatives and friends. The door slowly closes as Paul sits beside me, rubs my back, and asks: “I don’t usually speak, but I just don’t understand why this keeps happening. It’s extremely upsetting, but, as horrible as it is, don’t you kind of get used to it?” The belly of our disturbance with offering our personal safety into the hands of someone else lies in the reality that whole police departments and security forces are trained to serve and protect good citizens from bad citizens. The ledger for determining what that looks like, in these United Corporation of States, is, and always has been, an allocated fiscal portrait. Now when you put a face on wealth and a face on welfare in the general sense, people of color show up on the low corner of that American brochure. And the lower you are, the more (according to history) you should be patrolled, restricted and feared. This is because, particularly in the black community, this country knows it owes us a great debt that it has never had any intentions of paying and they fear that all of this pacification will someday wear thin and we’ll overtake the plantation. Black men, from the moment we reach…let’s say 10 or 11 years old, are viewed as physical weapons, which immediately sanctions those with legal authority the use of deadly force to "protect themselves and the greater community." This dangerously (internally and externally) perpetuated lore of black male aggression is how they -- again and again -- turn murder into mercy. This is why our dead are put on trial. Even after we’ve left, the very indication of our presence causes unrest and we have learned that there is nothing more dangerous than making white America (white being a way of thinking) uncomfortable. No, Paul we don’t get used to it. We are angry, and I think anger is just mourning. The problem is we can’t properly go through the grieving process because we’re interrupted with a new outrageous display of our disregard. It is 2016 and we have presidential candidates saying that ‘we have to give power back to the police’. This is the nation’s response to black death. You can say that he was armed. He never reached (as he was pinned to the ground) for the licensed gun in his pocket. Warren Drouin and Steven Boyce terrified the streets of Portland with two loaded rifles and were taken into the station, alive. Even when young white men murder, we hear of the emotional distress they were under, we watch neighbors and parent’s plea for our sympathy, we are sold on their likability. I read an article and before reaching the body of that leaning essay; they listed Alton’s entire catalogue of legal offenses. There was not one goddamned positive word about him -- the victim. This is what we do. We are so used to the “they had it coming” defense for black lives not mattering. Because black folk (it would seem from the media's account) are inherently vicious, and what is even more important to note, disposable. My heart beats harder and faster for his family and the other countless names that don’t make it to the news because I know that it could very well have been me or my brother or my uncle or aunt or sister. Paul, you don’t understand because you never had to. You were born above the flag. The terrible truth is that this patriotic hunt continues because we’re afraid of them, and after much educating; we’re just as afraid of ourselves too. This is why it keeps happening, my dear friend. There is, in all of our upset, no lasting uprise.
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