Innocent Until Birth
I’m black 24-7…
I want to say this before I start. I have not, nor shall I ever attempt to write in the voice of an individual who has all of the answers. Whenever I post pieces like these, they are simply a physical manifestation of my frustration with the system and the social accepted way of life that has plagued Afro-American peoples. Do I do extensive research? No. I am not that studious. Do I sit by the television and wait for CNN to come on so I can take hours of notes? No. These are literally my thoughts, feelings, and opinions based off what I understand and I feel I’m educated enough on to speak about.
Whenever I read articles or news reports that are covering incidents where a black person was murdered unjustly, I am noticing that they are starting to (lately) be labeled as “mentally” unstable. Well at least the most recent few. Specifically Korryn Gaines. This young lady recently lost her life at the hands of Baltimore County Police. The officers and Korryn had initially had a serious run in when she was pulled over for a traffic violation, that later turned into an attempted arrest because of her failure to appear in court. During the video we see she is very vocal about her unwillingness to comply to what she felt (and was coming off strongly) as police abuse of power. She even made sure to repeat this to her son. She often would remind him to stay strong and to not be submissive to the oppression they were currently dealing with. Whether it was dealing with a few moments of attempted physical altercations with the cops, or simple verbal scuffles; she remained as composed as she could possibly, all-the-while holding her ground. Forgive me if I am wrong, but this does not come off as a person who is mentally unstable. Mentally unstable people are not inherently violent people either. So it’s not fair to that group to label them as such by saying her behavior correlates with it. Now it is true that she had suffered from a lead poisoning accident at a young age, as well as reports of her having a few break downs leading up to her death at age 23.
The thing is, if you watch the video, you will see that this young woman is very aware of what is happening, and her actions at that. Most online (specifically black men and women) are at arms about how she “put her children in danger” during her altercation with BCP. Some feel that as a parent she should have complied with the police as to make sure that the safety of her children was guaranteed. The thing with this is, if she could not guarantee her safety, how could she feel assured about theirs? An idea she addressed during the earlier parts of the tragic video. Why is it that we are focusing on the opinionated cons of her parenting than the possible pros? Think about it like this: in that car she had very young and very observant black male, her son, riding with her. Should he not see his mother, a very proud and strong black woman, holding her ground in a non-violent matter, and not bowing to these societies standards of how citizens should comply with their local law enforcement? Sure she could have done as most of social media would have liked, but we have seen (even recently) what compliance looks like. Several shots to the chest, arm, even a choke hold until death. So, in her eyes (which is the only perspective at that time and futuristically), whether she complied or not, she was at a high risk of dying right there in front of her child. She chose to go out with her head high, and vocal about her feeling oppressed. Zora Neal Hurston said “if you are quiet about your pain, they will kill you, and say you enjoyed it.”
But back to the point I came to make.
James Baldwin said at one point “to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, will put you in a state of rage at all time.” There is a scary amount of truth to this statement. Think about it like this for a second. In America, as a person of color, you are born in a skin that is inherently a prison jumpsuit. Why would I say such thing? Well, look at the most recent events. Look at how law enforcement has chosen (yes it is a choice, much like wearing that uniform and following the guidelines. Much like how it isn’t that we are this shade under the sun.) to interact with Afro-American peoples. And this is not something that just sprung up overnight. No, this has been happening since we got here. We’re brought here. Shown in horrific ways that no matter where we go here, it will always be like this. And change is just an illusion that is foolish to put a stopwatch too.
And as you grow, and walk this life as a woman or a man, you come to find that society is more like a jail cell than a way of life. Others have the ability to move in and out of societal norms in order to find a comfortable place in life. But for Afro-Americans, it has come to my attention that in order for us to find that “comfortable” place in life, we must be willing to sell our skin, snitch on our culture, wear a wire in our skin so to speak. Black cops who justify or stay silent on the actions of the law enforcement have found a comfortable place. Athletes and entertainers who denounce their blackness in order to keep their position in the world, their (privilege bigoted whites) world, have found their comfortable place. It would appear that when the WNBA chose to speak, they were reprimanded. That when Black or white actors speak out, they are black balled in their community. That when, politicians are choosing to stand with us rather than against us, they are thrown under the bus. It would seem that speaking out against the life long sentence that blacks are handed as soon as the doctor cuts the umbilical cord and life puts the judicial and ancestral chains on us, they get treated just as bad.
Could you imagine living in a world where you are looked at as a convict as soon as you walk into a store, even though you are wearing a suit? Or to be treated like a criminal when you walk into work? To be treated as a convicted felon when all you did was run a red light, not use a turn signal…or have missing front plates. To be under 15 yrs. old and treated as an adult in the system. To be written about in the news as young adult, while others have their youth written about to salvage their innocence. As a black male or female you are conditioned to be recognized by your credit score, address, hell even your test scores as a youth are synonymous with your possible prison number. This idea seems extreme, until you realize that while playing cops and robbers, you were training. Hide and go seek could have been an exercise, picture day is getting you comfortable with a mug shot. I get it right, “Tony these ideas are a little too far-fetched.” But there is often truth in jest, and the life of colored people has been for a very long time, a life sentence to be subjected to premeditated prejudice, and to be ran throw a system that favors many but not them.
What happened to Ms. Gaines and her child is a testament to the idea that no place is safe. Not work, school, church or even your home.
This is America, the land of the free. And home of the brave. Free to do as you are told. Revolt; be brave enough to die for it. Korryn Gaines was very aware of this ugly truth. Hopefully we are too.
Now, that I have gotten that out of the way. Please examine this idea, as closely as you feel comfortable doing. Then examine it again. Do it until it makes you uncomfortable. Then you will understand.