“Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”
I honestly feel so insignificant and powerless. Not in the sense I have been feeling here in South Africa when I look at the structural problems that have led to the creation and the maintenance of the townships. But on a very different level. Viewing what I have in South Africa is one thing, but seeing what is going on in my country is quite different. With the Darren Wilson verdict I feel so…at a loss. I’m not here to go into an analysis of what is going on, as many articles do that very well, but I am here to share my feelings. This morning Melissa asked me if I had heard the verdict, which I hadn’t, just like her. But she looked it up and we had a very normal conversation about how Darren Wilson was not indicted. I did not feel the fire burn inside me or feel my eyes well up. I didn’t talk about how fucked up this whole thing it. It didn’t hit me until a few hours later when I went on Facebook and looked at my feed that:
1. I was not surprised.
2. I was in shock.
While I’ve been here in South Africa I have gone through a lot of emotions and tons of introspection. But this morning I just accepted what my friend said to me without any outrage, without any Black rage. I accepted it, and it wasn’t until I saw there cries of others in the world that I really realized how sad it was that I felt so unaffected this morning. But it wasn’t that I did not care. I was truly in shock. Not the diagnosable shock that someone may experience after a traumatic event, but a more subdued kind. I have become so accustomed to this system and I am so far removed—being physically out of the country—that the news this morning did not hit me in a way I expected it to. But the more I stewed, the more I realized that I need to work. The more the photos of Darren Wilson showed the utter injustice of what happened to Michael Brown, the more I realized that we really need to figure out how to fix this shit. The more I got mad at the Facebook statuses that chastised people for their anger in light of other news events, the more I thought that I need to figure out how I’m going to change this fucked up system.
I’m no fool, changing my profile photo and my cover photo are not doing anything to change the system. I’m quite aware of that. Reading Biko—which is what I came home to do instead of going to the used book store like originally planned—is useful for my thesis and for brainstorming but not for practical solutions. But at the same time, it is frustrating to read the dismissals of this lack of an indictment. I see people, particularly some of my fellow Black people, thinking unilaterally. I do not sit well with people telling each other to be silent and be quiet when outrage is a natural reaction to this bullshit. I’m a 25-year-old Black male, and the sad thing is that that is an accomplishment in itself. Making it to 25. Alive. What the fuck kind of world do we live in where making it to 25 is something to be celebrated for people of color? For anyone? This is something that my White friends do not have to think about because their lives are rarely threatened in the ways that mine, my brothers, my sisters, and all of those in-between have been threatened. Outrage over Darren Wilson does not mean that we are ignoring Black-on-Black crime, LGBTQI-targeted crime, gender-based violence, or any of the other atrocities of the world. But can’t we have this one day, at-fucking-least, to discuss how the system is jacked up? This one day to reflect on how there is a PATTERN in the murder of young people of color by White police officers? We can be mad about this and be mad about gang violence within our own communities. It is not an either/or situation. But at the end of the day, if those who are meant to protect and serve us are those killing us, doesn’t that trump everything else? If you want to talk about rape or murder within our own communities but the cops we call to handle the situation ignore our calls or are so militarized that we are afraid to call them, what is the next step?
So, back to the work. I’m really not sure what is next. Truly unsure and properly frustrated by this sense. But let me tell you, I’ve been reading “The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodsoon and the parallels are terrifying. I won’t go so far as to say “ain’t shit changed,” but I will say that there has not been enough change. Period. If you choose to ignore the everyday interactions and laws, you can at least choose to look at the statistics and the science that show us that people do not believe that #BlackLivesMatter. I’m on a track to get my PhD in Sociology because I want to teach, I enjoy sociology, I am interested in research, there are not enough people of color in academia, there is the potential of power that a doctorate can lend me in making change, and ultimately because I think I can inspire small changes in the people I teach that will have a ripple effect. But until I’m teaching formally, I will continue to educate informally. My friends, my coworkers, people I meet. I want to make people realize the reality of our situation that is much more than just this case. But outside of these small acts of education and resistance, I’m not sure what to do. The protests in Ferguson have definitely raised the consciousness of some, but looking at this final verdict? I can’t help but wonder how I really make a change as one person, or even as a collective unit. Until then I will do what I do in academia, write—so that others can see through the eyes of another and so that I can sort out my own feelings—, and create art that hopefully awakens people to issues that may be new to them. If you have any suggestions for what else I can do, let me know. Seriously. While my PhD track is pretty set—meaning I do plan on working within the system—, I am really looking for ways in which I can DO more instead of theorizing about it. Because at this point I am at a loss and I am so disappointed that all of this has happened and that none of it is shocking. For my friends who are reading this who may not be people of color, please be an ally. Don’t be complicit in the slaughter and mistreatment of people of color, of anyone.
Just remember that the jury found no probable cause to indict Darren Wilson. No probable cause. Buckets of money and support for Darren Wilson. No trial. No probable cause. No probable cause.