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.

https://twitter.com/jazzedloon/status/537093616741916672

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.

Movies and Race

 

On Reliable Sources on CNN on Sunday, Eric Deggans hosted Alyssa Rosenberg and Viviana Hurtado to discuss a headline in USA Today which characterized the movie The Best Man Holiday as “race-themed”. The problem in describing The Best Man Holiday as race-themed is that the only way the movie is so themed is because it has a predominantly black cast. As Rosenberg pointed out on the show (and also on her blog) no one described Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (or any Woody Allen move, for that matter) as race-themed even though his movies typically feature a mostly white cast.

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Trayvon Martin

 

Late Saturday night, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in February 2012. As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote, the jury decision was not surprising given the circumstances of the case, namely Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws and the lack of witnesses other than Zimmerman.

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Saturday Afternoon at Late Lunch/Early Dinner

Times Square .craig via Compfight

We are sitting in the restaurant, my wife, her friend from college, her friend’s daughter and I. We haven’t seen each other in a few months and it’s good to see them again. My wife and her friend are talking about who knows what so I am talking to the daughter. She is almost seventeen and smart and a lot smarter than I was at that age. I want to try and pass on some wisdom to her but maybe I don’t have any to pass on or maybe it’s too late.

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Admitting Our Problem With Race

When I was in college, I attended a talk in which the head of the university department established to make us all more conscious about race told us that if you grew up in the US then you were racist. The speaker’s point was that it was impossible to grow up in the US (this was in the late Eighties/early Nineties) without being educated by the media and other people to believe that pink people were superior to brown people.

As you would expect at a liberal northeastern university in a liberal northeastern state, there were some immediate and passionate protests. One of my close friends was particularly outraged, no doubt assuming that his appropriations of black culture from that time period (baggy shorts, LL Cool J, “word”) exempted him from the speaker’s statement. The speaker calmly assured my friend that no, you are a racist.

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