Let me preface this by saying the thoughts and feelings expressed in this blog are solely my own.
I’ve had a lot of feelings over the past few months as number of incidents involving Black Americans and police officers seems to rise to the top of social consciousness. The incidents make me introspective, and mostly, they make me sad. No matter what the circumstances, when someone loses their life because of a use of force by the police, I often wonder if there could have been another way.
This is not to say that in every instance involving the police started off in the wrong. There are times when people are legitimately breaking the law and the police officers arrive and start doing there job. Then, it seems, a line in crossed. A line that goes from upholding the law, to taking out some sort of anger or aggression, or proving that they have some kind of power over someone lesser.
Many see these incidents and feel sad or appalled by the actions of the police. Other says, “well if you weren’t resisting, they wouldn’t have had to use that kind of force.” Still others will use terms like “those people” or “thugs.” The common theme being a disconnect. Not viewing “those people” as human beings sharing this earth with you; sharing a human experience, but viewing “them” as lesser or part of a world that you don’t inhabit.
I bring all of this up because I think there is a disconnect. Not necessarily with us vs. them mentality. But a disconnect that Black Americans face everyday. For me, these feelings are deep down in the core of who I am. The feeling is often of being “unwanted.”
For most Black Americans, your ancestors were brought to this country as slaves. Not viewed as human, but as labor. The main point was, it was against their will. Then, when slavery ended and Black people wanted freedom and rights, society wanted to “send them back to where they came from.”
Because of this slavery, there is a disconnect from our homeland and a disconnect from the society we live in. When a group of people immigrate this country, they often have the opportunity to remain connected to their homeland, to their culture, and to their way of life. Family traditions, food, language, culture, etc. All of these things have followed Italians, Chinese, Mexicans, and various other ethnicities into this country and society. How many Black Americans can say that? Notice I am saying Black Americans, not African Americans. There is a difference.
My question is, how is a group of people supposed to full assimilate into a society when they are brought to this country as slave labor, and then meant to feel unwelcome and unwanted when they wanted to be treated as equal stakeholders in that society?
What other cultures, races, and nationalities have this experience in America? Or are other ethnicities here because they want to be here? Most other ethnicities migrated to the United States because they wanted to–chasing the American dream. Black Americans on the other hand are just here….because at one time we were needed.
So next time you judge a group of “thugs” or think about why “those people act like that,” ask yourself how you would feel in a country that brought you here against your will, enslaved you, fought to keep you oppressed, and then hesitantly gave you your “freedom,” only to find other institutional ways to oppress you purely based on the way you look?
It might require you to check your privilege but it also might open your eyes to what the violent protests and riots really mean. They mean a feeling of anger and hopelessness that you might never understand. A feeling of alienation and loneliness that cannot be articulated by the abject.
Perhaps rather than meeting such behavior with more violence and judgement, we should try meeting it with empathy.