The Black on Black Crime Argument (September 10th update)
“Black on Black crime.” One of of the many reactions you hear to Colin Kaepernick’s protest. It implies that Black folks are killing each other, so why are do we have a problem with police behavior. It’s the same analysis that gets folks to trot out that Freddy Brown or Alton Sterling had rap sheets, as if their criminality could justify happened to them. What Black folks are complaining about — though partially brutality, and excessive force etc. — is extrajudicial execution, that is the killing of someone whose guilt has not been determined.
Whether or not I kill my neighbor and regardless of his/her race, the state is not empowered to kill me when there has been no finding of guilt on my part. It’s 2016, people. This is not Dodge City. You don’t, “Hang ’em High,” without a judge and jury weighing in. There are several problems here: 1)Black on Black crime does not involve the power of the state, or differently described, the actions of people who are sworn to protect and serve all, 2) whites are responsible for most crimes committed against whites just as Blacks are responsible for most crimes committed against Blacks, and yet, only Black folks find themselves being harmed by law enforcement in disparate numbers; 3) the state can’t perform to a lower standard because of crime in my neighborhood. Said differently, everyone should be treated equally by law enforcement, including the presumption of innocence. And yet, time and time again, we hear stories of police engaging in racial profiling.; and 4) Finally, law enforcement can’t perform to a lower standard with respect to crimes I am alleged to have committed, but for which I have not been arrested, much less charged, tried and found guilty. Then there’s the fact that the even if extrajudicial execution was ok, Black folks are not infrequently killed for stuff that wasn’t a crime to begin with, e.g. Sandra Bland (which was the great crime, the traffic stop or the failure to put out the cigarette).
So please, rather than looking for reasons not to examine the legitimacy of the Kaepernick protest, take at least as much time to look at why he’s (and others) protesting, as you do to try to find ways to dismiss it.
September 5, 2016
As I say often of late, I write less and less frequently because I feel like I’ve said it already … this is no exception, but I am going to connect something I said recently to the debate/discussion around Kaepernick and whether folks support him or not. I am also going to start with this question: what are YOU doing to make things better?
In recent days, I’ve seen people I’ve known for a long time posting comments that cops have made “telling Kaepernick like it is,” (my characterization) about how tough their jobs are, how they put it on the line every day and are just trying to make it home. Another post was linked to a video where Kaepernick was called a whiner, or asked why he chose now to start protesting. Neither those earnest posts from the cops, nor from the folks that share them acknowledge that Kaepernick has a point. He plays for San Francisco, a team located in a city where more than once in the last several years, the it’s come out that some SF PD cops are using racially biased and homophobic language to describe the folks they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. Plus, meanwhile, at the other end of the Bay Bridge in Oakland, nearly 30 law enforcement officers have been implicated for assaulting a sex worker, who was a minor during the time that some of these encounters occurred. And the police unions are negotiating contracts that make cops less rather than more accountable. These incidents might be enough for Kaepernick to protest were it not for the deaths of people of color who have been stopped and/or detained by the police across the country. But the folks who are going after Kaepernick and burning his jersey seem oblivious or not interested in why he’s protesting, or if they are, that never comes up in their responses. My simple question is this: is your problem with how he is protesting or the fact that he’s protesting? Because every single time I point out that it would be helpful if the cops who are complaining about Kaepernick took a look at the misdeeds of their fellow travelers in blue, I get silence … #crickets. So I ask again, Kaepernick critics, what are YOU doing? Because your silence worries me. It makes me worry that you aren’t responding because you’re perfectly fine with the way things are, with dismissing Kaepernick and not examining why he is protesting. If so, there’s a name for your reaction, “change back.”
Change back is what happens when someone raises a concern or issue, and someone else pushes back because they are used to the relationship the way it is. It’s what happens when you tell your parent their belittling you is hurtful and they say, “get over it,” or accuse you of being thin-skinned. [Note: This wisdom comes from my “book shrink,” Harriet Lerner, author of the “Dance of … ” series of books]. Pushing back on Kaepernick without asking yourself how you will work to address the fact that this country has policing problems, and that many of those problems disproportionately affect people of color It is also what happens when people say #Black Lives Matter, and are greeted by #AllLivesMatter. As a woman raising a boy of color, it seems to me that only those who don’t have to teach their sons to fear law enforcement could embrace #All Lives. Because #All Lives is already true for them. Thus, it makes it difficult for them to see that what Black Lives Matter means, on many levels, is “Black Lives Matter, TOO” versus “Black Lives Matter MORE,” which is a common misunderstanding. Thus, they might respond, “Black Lives Matter is … divisive, or anti-law enforcement, etc.”
So, I have no problem whatsoever if folks object to how Kaepernick has chosen to protest. But, if at this point, you still don’t get that there’s a need for some kind of protest (as these UCSF doctors and nurses, kids of color, and US Soccer player Megan Rapinoe have), and if you’re not in a position to answer the what are YOU doing question, then please do something to change that, please decide to be part of the solution. I say to people frequently these days, as my 8 y.o. brown-skinned boy goes through growth spurts, that it feels like Logan’s Run. People may still call Ryan Lochte a kid, or boyish in his 30’s, but 12 y.o. Tamir Rice did not get that benefit. Neither did an African American clinical psychologist lying on the ground with his hands in the air get the benefit of the doubt. And I fear that time is running out for my boy as well, that the amount of time that his boyishness will protect him is waning rapidly. I fear that by the time he’s 10 or 11, his light will start flashing.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?