I Am Not Afraid

From November 25.

Last night I was following along with the news out of Ferguson and although none of it was really surprising, I felt deflated and helpless. Sometimes things just seem broken and it’s impossible to know how they can be fixed.

This morning I was going through my Twitter feed and I came across this tweet from Jazmine Hughes, editor at The Hairpin.


She was right, of course. I went through those emotions last night and at no point was I afraid. I will leave for work shortly and I will not be concerned about being shot by the police. I will not be afraid to jaywalk or to take a shortcut or to take my wallet out. I will not be afraid.

Last night while the news was coming out of Ferguson, there were two gunshots outside. This is not that rare in my Brooklyn neighborhood. I live a block away from public housing, from projects, and have been told by police at various times over the years about gang wars and drug violence in the projects. I never thought to question these explanations from the police.

Over the years it has been very common to see fire engines parked at the projects, less common although not uncommon to see police cars, relatively rare to see ambulances. Last night there was an ambulance and although I had a good view of the ambulance itself I could not see what it was there for. Since the ambulance arrived after the gunshots I assumed the two were connected, although the absence of police cars makes that unlikely.

My wife and I have lived in this apartment for eleven years and I have not thought very much about those projects, or at least about the people in those projects. After reading Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations, specifically about red-lining, it made me think more about what I assume about the people who live there. How did those people end up there and how much of the reason is institutional racism? How much of the cycle of poverty is because of institutional racism.  While I am looking down at the ambulance, I thinking about the gun shots and the shooter, and why do I assume that the gun shots are connected to the ambulance?

None of these questions are likely to be answered today and most of them will never be answered. Part of that is because I’m not sure how I could go about finding answers, not without the undertaking feeling more like a way to make me feel better about my privilege. The other reason is that I don’t need the answers. I will go to work and I will celebrate Thanksgiving and I will enjoy the all the things I never earned and only received because I was lucky enough to be born in the US to middle class parents, to be white, to be tall, to be intelligent, to be educated, to be male, to be attractive. I am all those things and I get to benefit from all of them. And because I get to be all of those things I have one more luxury that I haven’t earned. I am not afraid.