I started writing this post a few weeks back but never got around to finishing it because I keep trying to temper the feelings of both anger and fear that I have. Because on the one hand, I don't won't to alienate those that are still around reading this blog, some of whom are not persons of color, but on the other hand, I have the need to discuss this. Also, it's always been my nature, since I was knee high to a grasshopper to keep the peace and try to make sure everyone got along. However, the need to speak out on a difficult subject matter on this blog has come, because this time it involves family.
You see, almost two months ago, one of my cousins (second cousin once removed) was involved in an altercation with Salisbury, NC Police. You can read about the incident here, here, and here.
I won't sit here and say there are not two sides to every story. In fact I won't even sit here and say my cousin is perfect because it's only been recently that 1) I've reconnected with descendants of my Grand Uncle and 2) while I wrote about my cousin Graham Hosch's artwork previously on this blog (Talented Tuesday), I'm not going to pretend that I know the lifestyle he leads. But here is what I do know based on word of mouth from family and based on newspaper reports, Police have stated cousin Graham's injuries, his windpipe being crushed, were sustained prior to their arrival. Taking type and severity of injuries into account, it's just hard to fathom that you are going to be casually walking down the street if you have a crushed windpipe. And yes, he may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, but from what I know, he was trying to avoid trouble, by walking home instead of driving home in an inebriated state.
Not that these types of incidents haven't happened in bygone eras, even within the family, but it seems in the past few years, there's been a litany of these type of incidents involving unarmed black men, and women, too, for that matter. Some of these have been high profile, such as that of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride and Johnathon Ferrell, of which the end result for the victim was death. Most however, never make the national news and occur every day in both small towns and large cities across America and involve both police and private citizens. For me, these recent events speak to bigger issues of which these are only part of the symptoms.
On the surface, these various incidents whether they involve private citizens or police, show the power of the the Prison Industrial Complex and the need to feed the Prison System. Today's prison is becoming privatized more and more and as such it is a money making industry these days. Heck even before is was becoming privatized, it was a money making enterprise as it was and still is a source of free labor. However, at it's core though, these events speak to what I believe is the bigger issue, that as a whole, race relations in this country have never been fully resolved.
Through decades of a fairly robust economy, everyone assumed everything was okay even though there was a still festering wound just beneath the surface. I believe the Great Recession coupled with the election of America's first president of visible African descent ripped the scab off that wound. And frankly the thought of not finally treating what deeply ails this nation scares me. There are things I see and hear that remind of times I only read about in books or that were relaid to me through family elders and friends.
I titled this post The Precariousness of Being a Black Man in America in 2013. It could just as easily have been entitled The Precariousness of Being Black in America in 2013 as I feel the current state of things doesn't show regard to sex or age.
I'm sure there are many that will probably disagree with my assessment but I ask that before you totally dismiss what I'm saying, stop for a minute, envision yourself wearing my skin color, then tell me if you feel the same way.
You see, even in 2013, skin color, whether you want to admit it or not, still plays a powerful role in this country in how one is perceived. It can be the crude comments left by some on the news pages about my cousin's incident when they know nothing about my family members or the shock that comes to a face when hit with the reality that I have not just a bachelors but also a masters when you assumed that I probably didn't even finish high school.
There are no easy answers to rectify these issues but to paraphrase Martin Luther King, I feel that we, as a country, will never realize our full potential until we live out the true meaning of our creed.