Phone news alerts dinging. Breaking news! Multiple shootings.
“Oh God! Please don’t let the shooter be Black. This is horrible. I hope that the victims are okay,” most Black people think.
Yes, most Black people will pray that the perpetrator isn’t Black before they pray for the victims.
Fucked up? Maybe. Real? Definitely. Understandable (if you actually take the time to think about it)? Absolutely.
If the shooter had turned out to be Black other Black folks know that the body count will increase 100-fold. There will be 100 times more deaths. Every cop, every homeowner, every business owner will continue to feel justified for killing every Black person who did ANYTHING that was considered “threatening.” A Black kid can be playing with a toy gun in a park; a Black kid can be walking home with skittles; a Black man can be using his telephone in is backyard; a Black man can be selling single cigarettes; and he can be shot again and again – 3, 5, even 20 times. And many people will believe and claim that the killing was right – was justified — because, after all, Black men, are dangerous. Those people aren’t seeing the Black father, child, friend, son who was riddled with bullets; they are seeing the dangerous Black man, who robbed the convenient store by their house (and got $30), the picture that was shown on the nightly news four consecutive nights. They are seeing the bad guy (the dark figure) they’ve seen in almost every movie and television show that they’ve watched since they were three years old.
If a Black person had turned out to be the perpetrator – more Black men will be stopped, more Black men will be harassed, more Black men will be wrongfully convicted and will serve longer sentences.
If a Black person had turned out to be the perpetrator, other Black folks would be concerned about their advancement opportunities at the jobs they already had; and the hiring possibilities for the jobs they didn’t. Tyrone had already shaved his beard, shortened his name to Ty, and joined the company softball team (although he hated the sport) so his bosses would see him as a “team player.”
If a Black person had turned out to be the perpetrator, other Black folks would brace themselves to hear about missing fathers, urban poverty and every other ill that faces our community. We would hear nothing about the individual shooter: not how he was quiet and a good student. No interviews will be done with neighbors or former teachers stating how shocked they are by his behavior. We won’t be offered “excuses” as to why he may have “snapped” (how he had been broken hearted since his dad died when he was 8, or that his girlfriend recently lost their baby, or how he was teased in high school for stuttering). No, he will be vilified. And he won’t just be a “he.” He will be us. He will define who we are as a people, not who he was as a person.
Cause you know Black people are violent –like animals.
As each minute passes, our stress decreases. Were he Black, no doubt, there would be a picture of him (typically looking as threatening as possible) continually flashed on the TV and news websites within in an hour or two of the shootings. Right? We don’t fully release (either our breath or our thoughts) until the perpetrator is identified, publicized, and turns out not to be Black. We have been criminalized in this country—through micro-aggression after micro-aggression (at a minimum) for simply being Black. We’ve never been allowed to feel as if this is truly our home (at times welcomed; at times not-but always a visitor) so we live as visitors, who need a place to stay but have no place to go (trying our best to not do anything to make our landlords question, punish or evict us). When tragedy happens, we, selfishly don’t think about those who have been killed, but those of us who are still alive and still trying to survive.
So, we pray—silently or aloud- “please don’t’ let him be Black.”
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more