Ahmaud Arbery could have been me. A Black man, simply going out for a run.
Jacob Blake could have also been me. A Black man attempting to intervene in a domestic violence incident.
Any number of Black men killed by police or law-abiding, gun-carrying citizens, could have been me. It’s by sheer coincidence that I am still alive.
So I listened to your advice. I purposely avoid running near, or alongside, White people that I don’t know. Which is every White person in my neighborhood. I am obliged, if not required, to go out of my way to not make them feel threatened or fearful.
Luckily, I have not had an interaction with police officers because of a criminal or motor vehicle offense; but if I did, I would sure as hell be compliant. Looking straight ahead. Mechanical movements. Yes sir. No sir. All that overly-polite bullshit. But this wouldn’t help. My sister had a recent interaction with a cop, who told her she was making him nervous because she was in fear. Parenthetically, my wife likes to joke that I drive like a grandma because I won’t accelerate more than 2 miles beyond the speed limit. I don’t want cops to have a reason to pull me over in the first place. I look at that as being compliant even before the need for compliance.
And I watch how I interact with my White wife in public. Affection that is gentle. Discourse, but never disagreements. We are active in public during the day; but I like to be home when the sun goes down.
So, yeah, I listened to your advice on how to behave as a Black man – even though so many of you are neither Black nor male – on how I ought to approach and traverse this country we called the United States. And I will probably continue to do all of those things until the racial climate is improved. Teaching them to my sons, and his son(s), as well as the sons of my friends who are Black and Brown; and also teaching them to my daughter and her friends who are Black and Brown, as well.
But if Jacob Black could have been me or my son, Kyle Rittenhouse could be you or your son. Inflicting harm on folks simply protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake. So many people on my social media feed shared memes condemning violent protests. Where’s your condemnation for Rittenhouse?
Dylann Roof could also be your son. Remember him? Roof entered a church (indeed, he was welcomed by human-loving Christians!) in South Carolina and opened fired on parishioners during bible study. He murdered them simply because they were Black.
We can also go back to George Zimmerman, who could very easily be your son. You know how many times I’ve heard people speak about not wanting a certain type of people in their communities? Sounds eerily similar to George Zimmerman.
Further back still, damnit if the men who brutally murdered Emmett Till couldn’t have also been your sons. So overcome with rage that a Black boy would allegedly whistle at a White woman, that they brutally murdered him to the point that his face was deformed. Your son may find whistling and catcalling, looking suspicious, praying, and peaceful protesting wrong. Abhorrent even. But tell your son to stop fucking killing people over it.
Not all you, but some of you. Because male-identified members of the LGBTQ community, for instance, are not inflicting harm; not this type of harm. So maybe it’s about time some of you had a conversation with your son; the way I have with mine. The police shooting of Jacob Blake was both separate from, and an agitator of, the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting spree. A boy, seventeen-years-old. Not yet old enough to vote. But conscious enough to inflict harm against people protesting equal treatment of Black folks. It’s like we don’t even get to raise our collective voices about mistreatment. I still can’t get that image out of my head: police officer may as well have wrapped him in their arms, dried his eyes, told him everything was going to be already, and rocked him back to sleep, they way they let him approach the cruisers with a gun strapped to his chest. Black men don’t even get to run for jogs without making White people fearful. Yet White people can inflict violence and will be comforted like heroes.
So maybe you can help by telling your son to stop killing folks. Then tell your son this country doesn’t belong to him. This country doesn’t need him to come and save the day like some Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movie. Tell your son he does not have ownership over this county the way one owns a car. They can’t do whatever they want, whenever they want, just because they think it’s theirs. That’s some Christopher Columbus, colonizer type of thinking that leads to so many deaths and so much violence. And we all know Columbus not only did not discover America, but that he also decimated the natives. Or maybe we don’t all know that. Maybe give your son A People’s History of the United States and then tell him this country doesn’t belong to him. He is a part of it; but does not own it.
Let’s take it a step further, tell your son to stop inflicting violence on women. Just because a woman won’t go on a date with them. Or reply graciously to a so-called compliment. Or have sex with them. Or because their partner refuses to wear modest clothes. Tell your son he does not own women, and to stop killing women because of some asinine sense of control and entitlement. Teach your son it’s not in his birthright to have power over women; and that he should not want to kill women for wanting bodily autonomy.
Also tell your son to stop inflicting violence on members of the LGBTQ community. Just because they don’t agree with another person’s lifestyle. (Which, in and of itself, is a twisted way of describing a person. As if straight people chose their lifestyle.) Tell your son he doesn’t get to inflict violence because he feels duped – that someone is not presenting as the sex they were assigned at birth. Or because they asked to be called by a set of pronouns. Your son doesn’t get to control other people’s sexual identities or expressions. So they can just go ahead and put down the guns.
Your son, at any moment, can also stop inflicting violence on the Latinx community. Build the wall. Go back to Mexico. And all that other bullshit. Your son, so beside himself, at people who dare come to this country for a better opportunity (a story, it seems, that has been fabricated to absolve wrongdoing), that they forget your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents, too, came here for a better opportunity. So, yeah, teach your son about your family’s migration and then tell them to stop killing Brown folks!
You can also teach your son not to kill classmates simply because he (your son) doesn’t have any friends. All the way back to Columbine.
And then tell your son to stop killing people who pray to a different God, speak a different language, or celebrate different customs.
Again, this applies to some of you, not all of you. In specific areas, this also applies to me and my sons. Just tell your son to stop the fucking killing.
I’m appalled the way Black and Brown folks continue to be treated. And I’m disgusted by the lack of empathy and remorse, by the brutal killings, and by the White supremacy entangling our laws and that with which we accept socially. I can be the ideal negro (educated, middle-class, no police record, white-collar job, even having an in with White people), and still yet, there may come a day none of that will matter. None of that will help spare my life because I continue to be moved every time a Black or Brown person is killed by police officers; or someone on the margins has violence inflicted on them by a person in authority or by someone who thinks they are losing the country.
And I hope you are moved, too. Watching videos of boys – who could very well be your son – inflict violence on other, that is, non-White, communities. Terrorizing. Inflicting fear. Then being saved by law enforcement. Or maybe they could be your brother, nephew, cousin, husband, partner; or simply the guy who lives in your neighborhood. For, if Trayvon Martin could been my son, George Zimmerman could have been your son.
You say you don’t like where this country is headed. That we should all do our parts. Here is yours: Tell your son to stop inflicting harm.