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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dear Black America: I'm Sorry

"A Tale of Two Hoodies" by Michael D'Antuono

I never really took stock of my own white privilege until the murder of Trayvon Martin. That event changed everything. My son was two years younger than Trayvon, and I realized I would never need to have "The Talk" with him. You know, "The Talk" black parents have with their kids every goddamn day in this "post-racial" country. Don't wear your hood up, don't put your hands in your pockets, always say "yes sir," you will be followed in stores, white people will fear you, police will always assume you're up to no good. That talk.

Philando Castile did all the right things. He was respectful, he obeyed the police officer, he stated he was legally carrying a firearm. He did not reach for that firearm. He did absolutely nothing wrong, and he's dead. Not only is he dead, the police officer who killed him was found not guilty by a jury. Have you watched the videos? The dashcam footage, the footage from the back of the police car? Have you heard the voice of a terrified little girl, begging her mom to not swear because "I don't want you to get shooted?"

White America is defaming Diamond Reynolds, defending the police officer, blaming Philando Castile for his own death, and is slightly upset that little girl had to witness what she did, but blames that on Ms. Reynolds and Philando Castile as well.

Black America, I'm sorry. I'm sorry white people are so racist and cruel. I'm sorry police-no matter their skin color, apparently-believe all black men are dangerous. I'm sorry your sons and daughters and husbands and wives are being murdered, and the people in power don't seem to care.

I'm sorry the NRA has remained deafeningly silent about the murder of Philando Castile. He was a licensed gun owner, with a permit, but because he was black, the NRA has no interest in him whatsoever. The NRA doesn't support the right of black Americans to bear arms, just white Americans. Trevor Noah spoke about this fact on The Daily Show, and also brought up how the goal posts keep moving for black people: He was running away from the police, he was running towards the police, he had a gun, he didn't have a gun, it goes on and on. You can watch the video below; Trevor Noah's comments on Philando Castile and the NRA begin at about the 4:19 mark.

I have to imagine that being black in America is terrifying. Whatever you do as an African American, it's never enough. It's never enough to guarantee you will survive the day. Black children are not promised a day when their father or mother or sister or brother, or themselves, will be safe from police brutality.

Tamir Rice went to the park. Trayvon Martin went to the store. Charleena Lyles struggled with mental illness. Terrence Crutcher's car broke down. Alton Sterling was in police custody. Sandra Bland was in a jail cell. Mike Brown was walking down the street. Eric Harris was killed by a 73-year-old reserve deputy who mistook his own gun for a Taser.

I'm sorry. This is all so wrong, and yet, no one is really willing to change anything. Especially White America. White America responds "All lives matter!" whenever anyone says "Black Lives Matter." White America preaches that black people should just do what the police say (just as Mr. Castile did). White America says this is a "post-racial country." White America doesn't care about black people.

White America showed up in droves to airports when Trump's travel ban went into affect, donated millions of dollars to the ACLU, but bristles at the idea of teachers wearing "Black Lives Matter" shirts. White America donates to the NAACP, but won't attend a BLM rally, march, or protest.

Yes, White America is both conservative and liberal. White Americans are Democrats and Republicans. And while conservative White America is more violent in their disdain of African Americans, liberal White America is just as dismissive.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote about the "white moderate" in a letter from Birmingham jail, and his words still ring true:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

A more convenient season. Black people are being hunted, murdered, shot to death in front of family members and friends. Maybe White America can wait for a more convenient season, but African Americans cannot. 

Image of "A Tale of Two Hoodies" from Michael D'Antuono's website.

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