My Black Life: Does It Matter To You?

I really didn't want to write this shit.

I was going to just keep my thoughts to myself, like I always do when I read a story about yet another black man shot and killed by the police. I didn't want to get mad at the world about their various opinions, because I salute the social media chatter and coverage; it helps continue the narrative and inspires dialogue regarding the issue.  I just can't take reading Twitter timelines and Facebook posts full of people fake caring and thinking they're the next Nat Turner or Huey Newton. Like, shut up nigga, you're not going to do shit. Go back to arguing about $200 dates and what to put on grits.

Did you read those last few sentences? That's why I didn't want to write this. But you know what? I'm gonna keep going. GAWD AINT THRU WIT ME JUST YET! *Black preacher-man voice*

Whenever I hear some 24-hour news pundit with a cakeface of TV makeup on reporting another cop-involved shooting, I can feel my blood pumping. When the White majority-controlled media does that thing where they attempt to slander and discredit the identity of someone who can’t defend themselves in order to justify the murderous actions of trigger-happy officers, my heart races and my palms get sweaty. At the same time, a quote runs through my mind over and over again:

"HERE WE GO AGAIN!!!"- Tommy Bunz, Belly.

Why quote DMX's classic character? Because the way he felt about Sincere asking him the same thing over and over is exactly how I feel about reading the same news headline over and over.

UNARMED BLACK MAN KILLED BY POLICE....AGAIN

I'd love to see that headline on the major newspaper front page, like the Washington Post. It would let me know my fellow Shaker Heights High School alumnus Wesley Lowery had a hand in that. He just won a Pulitzer Prize for being part of an amazing collaborative effort to research each story involving citizens shot to death by police. I highly recommend you check out the piece, it’s an amazing piece of work.

See how off-track I’m getting? This is another reason why I didn’t want to write this shit.

I didn't want to let unbridled, furious, negative emotion spill out through my fingers that type these words. I can be quite reactionary at times (if you couldn't already tell), which negates my normally chill demeanor. It's rarely a good look.

But for real though, how many times are we going to have to go out and march and explain to the world how much our black lives should matter to them? How many times are unarmed men and women going to gamble the value of their black lives in the hands of law enforcement? The response by the majority has been outpouring support for all kinds of “______ Lives Matter” movements, like a satirical joke response to genuinely concerned citizens having the courage to support and defend Black lives. We know Blue lives matter; we know all lives matter, that isn’t the point. The point is that Black lives seem to be the ones getting killed by the Blue lives at a more alarming rate than All Other lives, and we’re not going to keep standing on the sidelines when it happens.

It’s mind-boggling that the response to Black folks wanting to support their own is an outcry of reverse racism and even the attempt to get BLM labeled a “terrorist” organization. Remind me again why proclaiming that my Black life matters makes White people feel threatened and afraid? Deray McKesson goes to Ferguson and Baltimore to support and protest for BLM and they throw him in jail. Jesse Williams went full Kanye at the BET Awards back in June, and he gets lambasted for having the nerve to express his feelings about police who, in his words, “deescalate, disarm and [don’t] kill white people everyday.” As far as violent retaliations to Alton Sterling and Philandro Castille’s deaths, I don’t condone them; I’ll never revel in the death of others who had nothing to do with the initial actions. But I’m not surprised that Micah Johnson and Lakeem Scott cited the police violence against Black people as a reason for why they snapped and took up arms against White officers. I mean, c’mon, how much poking the bear did they think the police could do before Black people reacted like this? They lit half of Los Angeles on fire after the Rodney King verdict, and HE LIVED.

I don’t care who’s reading this, whatever color, creed, or choice you are, answer me this one question; does my Black life matter to you? If it doesn’t, that’s fine. It’s a lot to ask a person I’ve never met to value my life the way you value your own. I’m sure your lives matter to your loved ones, friends and family, just like my life does to mine. However, if it doesn’t bother you when you watch video of cops shooting Alton Sterling while officers sit on his back and face, I question if his Black life matters to you. If you proclaimed support for the police officers targeted in Dallas and Bristol, Tennessee, it’s clear that their Blue lives mattered to you. Whatever your feelings, opinions or thoughts about police violence against Black men and women, one thing is crystal fucking clear:

There’s a strong percentage of the boys in blue employed by your local law enforcement department who don’t give a fuck about our Black lives.

Story time, y’all.

When I was a teenager, my mother used to make me carry around my school schedule because it had my name and birthdate on it. Before I had any ID, she told me to show this to police in case the police ever stopped me. By the time I was in middle school, I was 6'2 and my size often made others think I was older than I really was. (Came in handy when I snuck into the theater to see "8 Mile" back in 8th grade.) Why does this matter? Because every young black kid's parent(s) have to have that "talk" with their children about how to act when the police come around.

She'd always say, "Keep your hands in plain sight. Don't make any sudden movements. Answer the officer’s commands with a 'yes sir' or 'no sir.' Announce your movements before you reach for anything."

I used to think she was overreacting, which was natural for her, but she wasn't. When Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said that Tamir Rice, a 12-year old baby faced adolescent, was perceived by grown-up police officers as a threat because his "size made him look older," it all clicked. My mother wasn't an overbearing helicopter parent; she was making sure I made it home alive every night.  She understood that the police weren’t going to give a fuck about my good grades, or that I was an usher at church. My Black skin and adult frame could have been perceived as threating, which would have been enough for an officer to un-holster his weapon and pull the trigger.

I’ve always been under the impression that officers of the law are pros at de-escalating situations and solving problems. So here are the facts of the two situations involving Alton Sterling and Philandro Castille:

Sterling was shot in the chest and back while being subdued by two police officers, one with his knee on the side of Sterling’s face and the other sitting on Sterling’s back. Castille was shot in the arm as he reached for his wallet to show his ID, having previously informed the officer he was carrying a licensed firearm. Sterling was in front of a corner store and Castille had his girlfriend and her daughter in the car. Police approached Sterling while selling bootlegged CDs while Castille was pulled over for a broken taillight.

Anyone figure out a better way to de-escalate these situations? If so, you’d probably make a great cop.

To all my fellow brothers and sisters in the struggle, please be safe out there.

Now you know why I didn’t want to write this shit.