on FTP and interracial dating

The image in the tweet contains two Black folks; the hoodie on the left lists names of Black people that have been killed by police and the shirt on the right reads “Fuck the Police: #FergusonSpring.”

So I saw this tweet and…the more I thought about my previous relationships with white men the angrier I got at myself. As in:

“I let my exes get away with thinking unintentional racism was acceptable, so when I finally called them on it, they thought I was the bad guy.” 

Now before we begin, let me state that it is a waste of your time to try to guess which white man inspired this post, as I’ve dated multiple and I was in two long-term relationships with white men before I realized it wasn’t worth the risk for me. Well meaning white people often don’t see their white fragility, whitesplaining, or white logic–a symptom of being raised in a white supremacist society–and in turn don’t see how these thoughts uphold white supremacy. In other words, if white people don’t check themselves, they wreck themselves AND others.

So let me be clear on a few things:
1. “FTP,” also known as “fuck the police” is a valid statement in a police state. If a cop is truly a “good cop,” even he would recognize that FTP is a normal response to the 928 people killed by the police to date. It is a particularly valid statement for a Black queer man to make, regardless of class standing. In other words, going to UC Berkeley or being raised working-class as opposed to poor does not make me or Martese Johnson any less immune to the violence of the police or other authority figures. The difference is that our neighborhoods may be policed less heavily and so we benefit from less frequent and less violent exposure, most of the time. But in a white world, respectability politics and accompaniments do not serve as an invisibility cloak.

2. We all live within a matrix of domination, meaning we’re all oppressed in some way; oppression is relative (thank you, Patricia Hill Collins). But oppression is multiplied by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness, literacy, educational status, socioeconomic status and so on and so forth. But if you’re a white man, regardless of class, you’re one of the most privileged people in the world, even if you travel outside of Western countries.
3. If white people want to date Black people–not me, thank you very much–they need to understand that generational trauma is a very real thing. They need to understand that long before Black folk even arrived in this country, white people’s [figurative and literal] relatives: Did. Not. Want. To. Live. With. Us. White people need to understand that TODAY many of their [figurative and literal] relatives still do not want to live with us. And if that’s the case, I don’t want to live with them either. The white devil has and will hunt Black people down; the brutal murder of Emmett Till was not an isolated case and we all know the more recent Trayvon Martin case. So if I’m going to live with or near white folks, bring me the ones who understand not just American history, but international history. These white folks at least understand why I don’t trust them in this normatively racist world.

4. White people built the U.S. by brutally killing Native folk and subjugating Black folk before continuing to feed on the labor of others. Black people were one of the first currencies of the United States of America. This created a very specific racial antagonism and racially gendered relations between Black folk and whites. Whites have, for centuries, been obsessed with and repulsed by our Blackness. They have sought to contain our Blackness and yield power over it, even going so far as to display us in human zoos. White men often raped female slaves, men in general serve less time for raping Black women, and the case of Dajerria Becton in #McKinney shows us that even–especially?–14-year old Black women in 2015 aren’t safe. So needless to say, American chattel slavery was just one point on a timeline of anti-Blackness by those of European origin. Many Black people know this, but for those who don’t: white people would watch lynchings and send postcards to friends. And guess who the white people lynched when they caught wind of an interracial relationships? The Black people, of course. 

5. I don’t have any problems with who other people sleep with or choose to love, truly. But here’s a tip from one Black person to another: if your white partner doesn’t recognize that the police are pigs, watch out. If this last year hasn’t taught you anything, hopefully Rodney King or the Stanford Prison Experiment did. So to my folks who are in the swirl now, I hope that your white partner is willing to create a human shield for you when necessary.

“This is why I don’t talk to white people about race”

A few days ago I posted on my Facebook that I don’t plan on engaging with white people on the topics of race, police brutality, or even class. There are exceptions, but for the most part, I’m good. A friend messaged me today and asked why. If I am a self-proclaimed scholar-activist intent on dismantling white supremacy, isn’t direct engagement with white folk a great way to conscientize them?  This blog post is inspired by that question.

After 26 years of being all-consumed by whiteness and spending my years conscientizing white folk, I’m just not going to actively do it. I grew up in historically and primarily white neighborhoods, work/ed in white spaces, and attend a top research institution that contains a lot of white logic. Combine this with the historical legacy of Black dehumanization in the United States and you should understand why I’m tired.

So if a debate that naturally occurs in person? Maybe.

Online debate? Nah. Almost never worth it.

Questions from white folk? Especially respectful clarifying questions?Definitely; although I, like anyone, reserve the right to not answer them.

Devil’s advocate or “why did #BlackLivesMatter do this?” when I’m not a formal part of BLM? Nah. Not here for it.

I have literally had knots in my stomach and elevated blood pressure from debating this life-or-death shit, so I’m not here for semantic arguments or for you to practice your debate skills on me. I’m not here to be hyperconsumed like I’m google when my knowledge comes from 26 years of Black queer life, lots of self-reading, conversations with friends/elders/mentors/& more and of course the formal education I’ve received over the years. And here’s the thing: I’ve thought about some of these debates for days afterwards, feeling like it was my job to do this mess. Feeling like if I wasn’t doing this I was failing my goal of working with “allies” to help the mission of Black Liberation.

But if you notice, I have over 1,200 contacts on FB and around 2,000 followers on twitter. Many of them are white. So when it comes to white consumption from white people at a certain level of consciousness already: y’all are hopefully hearing it, listening quietly, and processing solutions. What I post is a form of conscientization, but what I’m saying is that I won’t take it a step further and discuss it in detail with white folk. I mean, y’all see how much content I produce on social media. Y’all see how much I read, and you wanna bank on my knowledge, my familiarity, and my perspective. I ain’t mad at it, but hopefully you’re also going home to your white families to check them on their potentially racist, classist, misogynistic and transphobic rhetoric. If you’re so inclined, you can talk to your friends about it, online or offline. But it’s too much intellectual and emotional labor for me to talk to white folk about this all the time. It’s not my job. I’m not being paid and in fact it takes time away from me and I’m suffering negative health effects as a result of your requests and my choice to engage with them. So then I hope that white people, half-white people, white passing people, and PoC with more patience are doing the work that I’ve done for most of my [short] life.

In other words: it’s on those who benefit from the interlocking systems (white people, men, straight people, able-bodied people, etc.) to help dismantle them. This means self-education and that sometimes means asking for help. But too often y’all aren’t asking for help or creating solutions, but demanding unpaid labor from me. And…nah.

If you’re white and this post makes you uncomfortable, read this piece by Joel Leon to give you a sense of the things I do, have done, and may have to continue to do for white people in my life, including this blog post.

5 Tips to Get More Than Clicks: Consciousness Raising on Facebook

If you know me personally, follow this blog and/or my twitter, you know that I post a lot of potentially divisive, contentious and depressing topics (politics, death, war). The goal for me in postings these is twofold: (1) sharing content I have read in the hopes that someone in my social network finds them interesting and (2) consciousness raising. Consciousness raising, popularized by feminist scholars, basically means making other more aware of a certain issue or conditions, I.E. #BlackLivesMatter.

Using my Facebook as a template, I’ve created this guide to share some tips on how to get people to actually pay attention to those things that matter to you, the reader. I based these tips on anecdotal evidence and articles I have read along the way. Obviously this won’t work for everyone–you have to tailor it to your personal networks–and I don’t always follow these rules myself, but I think this may help more than it will hurt. Additionally, people have to some opinion on your opinion. Whether they agree or disagree, they need to feel like your content is worth engaging with.

When posting an article/content on Facebook

1. Busy, bored, and disengaged; “I didn’t logon to get an education”

Simply put: a lot of people won’t like or notice a lot of what you post, so make it interesting. Keep in mind that outside of your personal relationships with those in your networks, social media is also affected by how much you interact with other people and how much they interact with you. Practically that looks like liking their photos, commenting on statuses, etc. So if you’re not very active, even with these tips you won’t be popping up in people’s feeds as often.

2. Choose a reliable source; ain’t nobody got time for false information.

Can the content be found on another [verifiable] source? If it’s a not a news source, like a blog, does it have a history of great content (like Black Girl Dangerous) ? Does it contain references for the information it cites? This may seem obvious, but it’s important because if you are known for posting from unreliable sources, people are less likely to engage with your content. Examples of sources I often cite include Al Jazeera News and The New York Times, but keep in mind they all have bias.

3. Framing is important; context is key.

Think about your own use on Facebook. What would make you as likely to click on a Buzzfeed article as an NPR article? Outside of the thumbnail used, interest level in the content is a huge factor for many people. Considering #1–people often avoid talking about socially conscious issues–expect that people will only read the headlines of what you post, at best.In order to properly frame an article, see below.

4. Include a comment or quote; make the reader’s job easier.

People will scroll past links, even when you do caption the articles but these people know you through familial, business, or school connections, giving you an in. But chances are, they may not click the link but may skim your comment. For this reason I usually will usually include 2-4 sentences (if it’s too long, people will often scroll past) of a mix of:

  • My thoughts/reaction (taking into account my bias or the bias of the author)
  • Thesis statement from the article
  • A short quote that spoke to me

5. Monitor posting frequency; be strategic

There are better resources than I to tell you when to post (to maximize peak times for traffic), but I can tell you that Facebook has algorithms and people have limits. Posting too often will mean that your posts won’t show up. Additionally, think of how you “reserve” your likes for a post on instagram. If a friend posts six amazing photos within one minute, many people will not “like” all six. But if she spread them out throughout the day or the course of a few days, she gets the most exposure and higher number of “likes.” The best bet–particularly to make sure people don’t tune you out–is to post less frequently but of a higher quality.

#MoreThanMarriage – Why same-sex marriage legalization represents privilege

Fact #1: The supreme court ruled same-sex marriage legal in all 50 U.S. states.

Fact #2: Less than 50% of our 50 states have employer non-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Fact #3: At least 80% of Black gay men have experiences with racism in the gay community.

The Human Rights Campaign and other advocates fighting for marriage equality needs to realize that “equal rights” are about #MoreThanMarriage. We should celebrate the wins when and where we can, but, as a 25-year-old cisgender* Black gay man living in the Bay Area, marriage “equality” is not my top priority. My queerness comes second in both my eyes and the eyes of society. Sure, who I sleep with can get me into trouble, but this beautiful, Black skin of mine presents a higher and more visible risk, and therefore a higher priority.

Marriage benefits include as tax breaks, hospital visitation, and child custody laws, but let’s not forget that people can still be fired for their non-hetero sexuality(ies). There are currently 28 states without laws to protect LGBT folks from employment discrimination based on their gender and/or sexual identity. These states give employers the authority to legally fire a person on the basis of their sexual orientation alone. This does not automatically affect some men because we have the privilege of “passing.” We can pass as heterosexual because we present in traditionally “masculine” ways through our speech patterns, mannerisms, and overall appearance. This a privilege that many–like men with “effeminate” traits–do not have. Passing is also a choice, the alternative is to disclose their sexual orientation despite the fact that it is nobody’s business.

The conversation shifts when the circle of human concern is expanded to consider the lived experiences of trans folks. More so than discrimination on sexual orientation, trans folks are even more heavily discriminated against at work, home, and even within the supposedly inclusive gay community. Keep in mind that a person can be both trans and non-heterosexual, and therefore the marginalization intersects and the risk multiplies.

Take, for example,  the recent “White House heckler” whose comments didn’t make it to many mainstream media narratives. This transgender activist, Jennicet Gutiérrez, spoke up at an LGBTQ event at the White House and received criticism about her methods. Her message was obscured, but let’s be clear: immigrants who identify as trans are misgendered in detention centers and face physical and sexual abuse as a result. As a man marginalized for my Blackness and my queerness, I personally stand with Jennicet in saying #Not1More.

The case of trans detainees highlight the fact that same-sex marriage does not destroy homophobia, transphobia, racism, or racism within the gay community. The notion of marriage itself resides in a very privileged space. While there are many queer people of color who are patiently waiting to marry, this Supreme Court ruling benefits middle-class white gay men in ways that it may never benefit someone like me. I dislike comparing struggles, but I have never heard of anyone dying from not having the right to marry who they wish.

On the other hand we, as Black people, are being systematically targeted and killed daily for merely being Black. This racial targeting is nothing new, because Black people have never been seen as human to the institution of whiteness (read: by many / most white people). But since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, mobilization took a new form through the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The movement–started by three womxn, two of them queer–is maintained by those same womxn and a Black queer man.

Don’t let silence hide the queer people who led movements for Black freedom. Don’t forget that the fight is not about Black liberation before LGBTQ liberation, but instead liberation for all people of African descent, including those who do not identify in the same ways as ourselves. Think about much further would we be in these intersectional struggles if we abandoned our collective tunnel vision earlier in the battle for liberation?

When the police are killing more of us–primarily Black folks–in a few days than other countries kill in an entire year, it is hard for me to focus on the potential bragging rights of marriage. In fact, this wave of state-sanctioned police brutality keeps me up at night and has many Black people too angry, scared and questioning to even consider marriage. So while I am happy to see colorful Facebook flags, my most pressing question boils down to:

What are you doing to get them to stop fucking killing us?
*meaning that my gender identity matches my biological sex and the gender I was assigned at birth. In practice this means I was assigned male based on my male genitalia and I identify as a man.

note: this article was written by me for the Afrikan Black Coalition and is crossposted here on my personal blog. Photo source: https://twitter.com/ykhong/status/614959735654232064

RE: How friendly are your white friends?

Disclaimer: This is a response to How friendly are your white friends?, an article by J.L. Saxon from Blavity.com. I posted it on my Facebook and tagged a lot of my white friends, asking them to share it because I felt it spoke to my experiences in a very succinct way. This sparked a lot of sharing, but also some critiques of the article. So, if you’re reading this J.L. Saxon, I tried to fill in the gaps that some people pointed out and here is the digestible version of what I ended up posting in response:

For those who believe America is now post-racial or that colorblind society is possible in the near future, consider this fact: as a Black man I am always perceived as Black, whether I “choose” to see my/your color or not. Race is a social construct, but it still has a profound effect my daily life and it is a symptom of white privilege for someone to be able to say that they don’t see color. And according to the way color works in the U.S., white is the default. Some of my friends are white and therefore are always white, but can choose to appropriate other cultures for laughs. They can wear another culture because the palette is white (see: Cinco de Mayo). See, the difference is that white people can choose to not talk about or see race–unless it is convenient for them– because they are the majority. We, the 13% of the U.S. known as African-Americans, do not have that option. We aren’t the default, we are one of many ethnic minorities. And when we, as Black people, are finally included in circles of white people, it’s because we “aren’t ghetto” or “aren’t like the other Black people.”I’ve heard those exact words in my life. (You can look up respectability politics to find out more about that). If you saw my poem, over-empathy, you know that I literally had a noose thrown at me as a “joke” and carried so much shame in freezing instead of responding that I rarely shared the story. So to say you are colorblind is insulting. To say that I’m not like most Black people, as if there is one monolithic and hegemonic Blackness? That’s not a compliment. It’s fucked up to me and people who look like me.

So, yes, many articles I post won’t solve everything. You may have critiques. But if you find something in them compelling and you learn something, consider sharing. Many people have told me that they love what I post and I that I teach them a lot. Maybe share it and say something like:

“I think the author could have gone into more depth here and here but I’m sharing it because my Black friend feels like it speaks to his experiences and I’d love to begin a dialogue on how we can do better to ensure that he doesn’t lose his sanity in a world where the color of his skin can be a death sentence.”

All that being said, don’t be alarmed, I’m doing well for the most part. I’m 25, I’m employed, I’m in college and I have somewhere to lay my head and food/water to put in my stomach. But sometimes I deal with depression and that’s a direct result of systemic racism, white supremacy, microagressions, the killing & suffering of so many people (not just Black people but also trans people, Nepalese people, South Africans, etc, etc, etc.) in addition to any my own school/work/life stress. So help me out here and dismantle white supremacy in your own home and social network. Just remember that your Black friends are not your personal tutors and it is draining to ask us to take on that responsibility. So ask us questions. But do your own research, too.

note: the header is a photo of the legendary June Jordan, courtesy of Google image search.

Dr. Cornel West, #EricHarris, and white allies.

I. Dr. Cornel West

I recently heard Dr. Cornel West speak in San Francisco on a very important topic: the burden of the Black man in America. Just sit with that for a moment. Dr. Cornel West speaking on the burden of the Black man in America. Having never read anything by him, but knowing of his intelligence, I intended to sit and take notes for myself. After realizing how many friends wanted to go but could not (including one in South Africa), I decided to live-tweet the flecks of gold floating through the air: @anthoknees.

Dr. West engaged us in a conversation for about an hour and a half, followed by a Q&A session. He structured his argument around three questions from W.E.B. DuBois:

  1. How shall integrity face oppression?
  2. What does decency do in the face of insult?
  3. How does virtue face brute force?

All questions relevant to any time for Black America, but particularly relevant for me as Anthony J. Williams. So here is a little background. I’m 25 years old, unapologetically Black, Seminole Indian, and gay. I grew up with an older brother and a younger sister and then a younger brother came along the way later. I was primarily raised by a beautiful Black mother from California, but my [also Black] father from Florida was along for the ride. Now I give you this background to say that I had a wonderful upbringing in Japan (~2 years, air force family), Texas (~3 years), and California (most of my life). Specifically, I grew up in very white areas, often being one of the few Black families in the area (I’m looking at you, Vacaville). I grew up with tons of positive encouragement from my mother for my intelligence, physical appearance, and ability. I grew up knowing that I was Black and being told that Black was beautiful (by my mother), but we were the minority. I grew up hearing that I was cute/well-spoken/cool “for a Black guy.” Growing up I was told that I was whitewashed, meaning that I talked/acted/behaved like I was “white.” Hopefully if you are reading this, you know that the concept of race is socially constructed and there is no one way to act “white” or “Black.” There are things associated with whiteness of Blackness, but by nature of me being Black and doing whatever it is I do, it is Black. Period.

Cool, so let’s move on. Now, my mother grew up the daughter of working-to-middle class parent, but more middle class than working class. She is the proud daughter of a Spelman graduate and an Air Force veteran, both deceased now. So she grew up aware of her Blackness, but with a certain amount of class privilege. My dad grew up poor-to-working class. So when raising us, we became part of that same working-to-middle class of people. My dad was in the Air Force and my mom worked multiple jobs in different fields, primarily in care (hospitals) and retail (clothing, sales, cell phones, etc). So with a two-parent income and often three-to-four jobs between the two of them, I grew up pretty comfortably.

Now I give all this background to say that I grew up aware of my class and aware of my Blackness. But I did not grow up reading a lot of Black revolutionary thought. I didn’t learn about Emmett Till until I was 24. I didn’t start looking into the Black Panther Party or SNCC until I was maybe 23. I read Frantz Fanon for the first time around that same age (The Wretched of the Earth, Black Skin White Masks). I just read James Baldwin–outside of an interview I had read with him a few months ago–for the first time a few weeks ago (The Fire Next Time). Toni Morrison, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Steve Biko, June Jordan, Audre Lorde? Recently. So what I’m saying is, I’ve always been Black, known I’m Black, and been proudly Black. But I have only recently stumbled upon literature that speaks to my experience in such plain language; things I have always known but have never heard expressed in books. So basically, my Black consciousness has grown over the last two to three years and it has been quite the experience. My growth comes from my mother, my family, my teachers, my friends, my enemies, my readings, my elders and even strangers. To quote Dr. West, “I am who I am because somebody loved me.” My mother taught me to love my brown skin, the lineage that runs through me, and my late grandmother who watches over me. My friend Toya told me about the event around Emmett Till in Oakland. Toya was also who I went with to see Angela Davis speak in Oakland. Marcel Jones, during my first semester, gave a lecture on the UC Berkeley Black Student Union and introduced me to SNCC. Arame Niang got me into some Pan-Africanism. Gabaza Tiba gave me a reading list. Princess Malebye kept me informed on South African scholars. And those are just a few of the friends/fam/mentors/mentees.

So essentially, I am trying to deniggerize myself and those around me, because despite my mom’s best efforts, the world teaches us that Black lives do not matter and that Black is not beautiful. Particularly because this white supremacy teaches Black people to hate ourselves–as well as our brothers and sisters–and teaches white people that white is the norm, and that white is right. But as Dr. West said on Friday (paraphrase):

When you niggerize a people, you convince them not only that they’re less beautiful and less moral, but you make sure that they stay so afraid and scared and intimidated, laughing when it ain’t funny, wearing the mask to fit into a white mainstream and then going home to deal with the repression.

Add to that another fleck of gold from Dr. West: too many people in the Black middle don’t believe that their[/our] destiny is inextricably tied to poor black people. And I think that was true for a lot of my life. I’ve always been empathetic, but having grown up more middle class I rarely even saw my poor black brothers and sisters. Going to South Africa broke my heart in many ways and for many reasons, but one of the big ones was Black middle class guilt. To be the first-world part of a first-world/third-world nation feels shitty, and so I’ve been working on turning my guilt–white guilt and class guilt are useless, because you just stew–into action and change. I’m trying to “be wise, courageous and visionary” and I’m trying to “listen to learn.” We can’t let ourselves be paralyzed by our guilt, but instead we must be empowered by our choices (another West-ism).

Also, if anyone wants my notes from Dr. Cornel West’s lecture, send me an email at anthokneesplease (at) gmail (dot) com. Sharing is caring.

II. #EricHarris

The reason I started to write this post tonight was to chronicle an argument I had on my Facebook page. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know I often post articles that spark debate. I am all about sharing the wealth of information that I have the privilege to receive and process, and sometimes that means a healthy debate occurs. But sometimes those debates turn into arguments. Like when a white friend and his white girlfriend argued with me that in the case of the lynched Mississippi man. The debate became an argument when they argued that the race of the killer did not matter to the case, but displaying his criminal record post-death was important for the case. And I said ‘sure, his past murder charge could be relevant to the case, but what is also key is that the way that media reports on Black people boils down to: Black man killed…but once he did __________, that may have been bad but it isn’t relevant to this case.’ So, I’m not here for that. See Walter Scott as a case study (and obviously Mike Brown). They’re already dead, why keep killing them through the symbolic violence of replaying gruesome death videos or posting horrible photos?

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”>

“He’s already dead, why keep killing him?” He’s already dead, why keep killing him? He’s already dead, why keep killing him?

— anthoknees (@anthoknees) April 12, 2015

I got off topic. My point was Eric Harris. I posted this article/video along with these comments about Eric Harris on my Facebook, qualifying that I am sick of having to defend my dead Black brothers and sisters:

I’m so motherfucking through.

“Fuck your breath” are the last words this Black man heard before he was killed. Seriously, if you don’t think Black lives matter, if you want to try to justify this is any way to me, if you want to spew some bullshit at me, unfriend me and stop talking to me. Immediately.

How many fucking hashtags are we, as Black people, going to make? Fuck.

I received many comments with similar sentiments, including this one:

Comment 1:

If the murder of Walter Scott was not caught on video and the video hadn’t been released I can almost GUARANTEE YOU that the police would have put out a statement saying that Walter Scott had the cop’s tazer and “posed a risk” when he was shot 8 times in the back.

The sad thing is, I don’t even know that he will be convicted.

But then, he posted this one shortly after:

Comment 2:

I also just want to put this out here, if Eric Harris was white, I bet the police would have treated him in exactly the same way.

They think of those who break the law, disobey them, or run from them are deserving of being beaten, tazed (and even shot, obviously) it IS about race in many regards but its also about police being out of control.

2,151 white people have been shot to death by police over the last 10 years.

Spoiler alert: he later apologized, but this was a learning moment for him and I feel that it could be a learning moment for many people, so I’m going to repost some of what I wrote:

In response to comment 2:

I firmly disagree with your second comment and find it reductive. We are aware that white people are being killed by the police, but are they being disproportionately killed? And if not, why bring it up in reference to this?

How many killings have you heard of/researched in the last two years of white people by cops? It is about race and the police being out of control, yes, but race and implicit bias, white supremacy, and structural inequality are huge aspects as well.

Do you have those same numbers for black people shot to death by police over the last 10 years? I don’t, but I’m fairly confident it’s a lot higher. And given the point you made, I also think these reported cases are not always reported as they occur. If the video did not exist Walter Scott would not have been counted, as they were framing him. There are so many stories that people/cops/the public did not believe, yet these videos are proving it hard to ignore the epidemic of Black genocide in America.

To which he replied:

“No no, I did not mean in ANY way whatsoever to diminish the fact that non-white people are disproportionately targeted by police or the justice system AT ALL.

I was talking about this SPECIFIC case and trying to point out that had a white person sold a gun, ran, was shot rather than tazed, the police would still yell “FUCK YOUR BREATH” at him. That’s it.

I am certainly not ignorant of the reality of the world pal.

2,151 white people, ~1300 black people killed by police in America in the last 10 years. This shows the black people are targeted ASTRONOMICALLY more in comparison considering that black people only make up 12% of Americans.

I was just pointing out that police don’t have respect for people.

(this comment was edited by him after his initial posting)

(I posited that Black and white people are not treated similarly by cops)

It is indeed true that black peole are generally treated worse by police and many other people (tons of evidence of this throughout all of American history) I’m just saying that police violence is a problem for EVERYONE.

They see someone who committed a crime, automatically they are less than human in the eyes of many police officers

(in this stream of comments, he also posted this):

so, you may be right, maybe if Eric Harris was white these particular officers would have treated the situation differently.

He also posted a link of a “white guy who just got the shit beat out of him as bad or worse than Rodney King for instance.”

III. white allies

At this point I was really fed up, so I repost this now for any of my white allies who have trouble seeing my logic. I think this is the clearest I’ve written it before:

So. See, [name of commenter]. Here is my issue. I never denied that police violence is a problem for everyone. It is. Obviously.

But you came into this thread (after me asking people specifically not to) saying “but what about the whites, it would have been the same.” Even going to far as to post articles about white people as badly brutalized. And now you seem to have maybe potentially come around. But it’s this back and forth that I have to go through to prove to [mainly White people] that Black people have never been and may never be seen as fully human in the U.S. Sure, the cops beat white kids too, but who do they beat more? And in more disproportionate numbers? Black kids. So we’re mourning 100s (there has only been one day in 2015 where someone wasn’t killed by a cop) of Black deaths. And you want to add insult to injury by playing a game of catch up?

It’s exhausting. People don’t believe our stories until we have them on video. White kids get killed and brutalized by cops, correct. And I don’t have the numbers to back it up (the Politifact article is interesting because looking at the CDC the info only goes back to 2007…unless I’m looking at the wrong thing?) BUT, I can bet that those white kids killed by cops were killed under much different circumstances. Much like the photoset I posted months ago where a cop choked a white kid and was fired, the experiences still happen, but the result in that case was that the white kid was still alive and the white officer was fired. That shit doesn’t happen to us, [commenter]. People get GoFundMe’s and paid leave when they kill us and they don’t get convicted.

So for me, it IS reductive to bring this debate, which is a different one, in. You don’t find it funny (strange, not “ha ha”) that he talks about his breath and he responds with fuck your breath? After a man was choked to death and said I can’t breathe? You’re smart, so I’m sure you see the cruel irony of NY cops where “I can breathe shirts” to mock the death of a young Black man and now this other Black man being killed, with a knee constricting his breath, being told “fuck your breath?”

I’m also pretty sure that those racist texts from SF police officers were about Black people. So even when we aren’t being killed, we’re being talked about in homes and institutions. In America, being Black means you are still seen as 3/5ths a person to the majority of people.

I’ve literally had people look right through me as if I wasn’t human, [commenter]. And this is obviously a different thing, because cops see everyone as inhuman. But you know who they see as the most inhuman? Black people. Black and brown people, rather. Black and brown and anything other than white. Essentially, the only way white people are seen in the same way is if they are hardened criminals, and yet all I have to do to be seen that way is be Black and alive.

So, forgive me (no really, it’s an expression), if your comments invoke a little bit (a lot) of rage in me. And forgive me (again, not really) if I feel you are being reductive in a post where I specifically asked people not to be.

For me, this is not a game of tit for tat but the reality of white supremacy in the United States.

And I’m all for white allies, [commenter]. Truly. But I need y’all to listen when we speak and not co-opt the conversation. My patience and emotional energy are already running thin when I live in a world, as a Black man, constantly in fear and constantly worried about if people fear me.

I’m open to hearing about the other side of things. But I don’t see white people rallying around police violence among whites in America. So for me, it seems a little childish to bring it up in this arguement. It goes back to my cover photo, where people talk about Black lives mattering and others respond with “all lives matter.” Of course all lives matter, but who is being disproportionately killed? Black lives. Brown lives. Indigenous lives. Trans* lives. Marginalized lives.

And I realize you apologized and I’m still talking. That could be seen as childish of me, and I recognize that. But I’m doing this publicly because:

1. I was silent for too long in my life.
2. I’m worked up, so I’m writing through it.

But again, I do appreciate and recognize your apology as well.

And here is where I want you to pay attention. He apologized twice, and owned up to his actions and his privilege.

You know what? I really appreciate you. I didn’t mean to argue or diminish but only to add to the conversation but I see that that is exactly what I did.

I have never lived in a world where I had to worry that the people around me are scared of me solely because of the pigment of my skin. I don’t have that daily struggle and I will never fully understand that struggle from the perspective of someone who does.

I always try to remain empathetic and I always speak out against racism though.

Sorry again for changing the subject to police violence in general when you were obviously expressing anger at white racism and the dis-proportionality of violence against non-white people.

So, in short, while this argument began by taking a lot of my emotional energy–and just walking through the world as a Black person, our mental tolerance for ignorance is low–it ended with me feeling really good. He made an effort and he tried and by me persevering with the conversation instead of giving up, I feel like (and hope I’m not naive in thinking) that his thinking will change from here. So if you wanna talk about some real shit, let’s do it. Y’all  know how to get ahold of me. But don’t act like you’re an ally and then invalidate me, my experience, or my feelings. Take the example of my acquaintance and don’t be afraid to engage in difficult conversations with your friends who are not white. In fact, you should really be engaging in some of these discussion with your white friends. Because like Dr. Cornel West said:

“We always embrace our progressive white brothers and sisters. But they got cousins.”

So I’d like to commend him and myself for engaging in difficult conversations and I want to encourage more of them. Silence is complicity.

“Love your enemy because even your enemy can change. You don’t want to foreclose that possibility. Allow other people to grow so they’re not frozen in one particular moment.”

–Dr. Cornel West

Post-publishing edit:

Silent white allies, and anyone else being silent about these issues, speak up. I heard about Eric Harris through twitter and FB and shared it. Now I’m sharing it with y’all. Keep the information going. Use this as a call to action to talk to your friends, families, and social networks about white supremacy and the role that plays in police violence. Remember, 3/4 of whites don’t have any non-white friends. So let me, your “Black friend,” encourage action rather than complacency.

#AntinAfrica – Black Panic

“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.”

Strange Fruit

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.