Unfortunately when we talk about communities of color and police violence, it is a norm. Regular. Every day. Or hourly, as some data is showing. Even worse, it is almost something that is viewed as something that is supposed to happen or as Giuliani implied, happens because we made it necessary. It’s sickening, victim-blaming at its worst.
I am concerned for my community, friends and family, and most importantly for my son. He is a Black male. Am I just supposed to expect that he will abused by the police?
From what I’ve heard this time, and for Oscar Grant, and for Trayvon Martin, even for Rodney King, was not just that these things happen, but that we don’t have any recourses when they do. The incident is expected and the lack of recourse is also. It’s the law, the judicial process. It’s the fact that people of color don’t work in their own communities. They don’t want to go to school, they tell us. Essentially meaning, until we deal with our own oppression in a less oppressive way, we will continue to be oppressed.
I usually remember a few lessons that I’ve taught with real clarity. In AP US History, I concluded a unit on slavery with a discussion about their thoughts on slavery. Many of the white students congratulated themselves by saying, Look how far we’ve come. At least Black people aren’t getting whipped! I shut that down. As calmly as I could. And trust me, that was difficult. I gave them some data points. And then I said:
Look. Some accounts say there were enslaved Africans with Columbus, but even if there weren’t, and Jamestown was the first in 1606, as a country we’ve had more years with slavery than without. First sit on that. Then think about the fact that in the South, after emancipation, you had four million homeless, illiterate, and unemployed Black people. Four million! Reconstruction was a joke. It lasted maybe a decade and succeeded in very little for Black people except in creating more methods to disenfranchise Black people. Over the years, as attempts have been made, they’ve been taken away too quickly. Somehow we’ve managed to get Black people to be the most vocal anti-affirmative action group out there. One guy gets his degree and turns around and makes it difficult for the next one to do the same. We have school districts in this country where barely any students of color graduate, and if they do, they haven’t taken the courses necessary to get into college or frankly, to get a decent job. And it’s not because they didn’t want to; it’s because their school didn’t offer it, either to them or at all. So let’s talk when those four million and their descendants are in housing and employment, and educated to the point where we can say more than it’s better than getting whipped.
So where do we start?