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Minor Infractions

July 7, 2016
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Do you ever get trapped in a spiraling descent into despair? Don’t worry. I’ll be okay. I wasn’t directly or indirectly touched by the 250 left dead in Iraq this past weekend. And I was able to shake that off at the time, as horrible as that might sound. And then there was all the anti-semitism that swirled around the anti-Clinton images. That was bad. Worse was the presumptive Republican nominee’s defense of the retweeted iconography.

Then I saw Alton Sterling get killed by police. By bleeding out. Alone. On the ground.

Then I saw Philando Castile get killed by police. By bleeding out. With his girlfriend next to him. Who could neither help him, nor comfort him. Because while he was dying, with a four year old in the back seat, the officer still had his gun drawn on the occupants of the vehicle.

Alton Sterling seemed to be selling CDs illegally. Philando Castile’s car may have had some problem with the tail light. In theory, we are all supposed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But America’s core values seem to be fading fast.

Yes, both men were black. And it’s hard to call these deaths a tragedy, because this pattern of deadly force against members of the black community when confronted with minor infractions by law enforcement, is all too predictable.

And while I am deeply concerned for minority communities in the U.S. I’m concerned for us all.

It was just a few days ago that Jesse Williams gave this short speech at the BET Awards. And it’s an inspiring call for awareness and change.

The thing that just pierces me, every time I watch this video, are the reaction shots from the audience. The pride of his parents. The strength. The sorrow. The anger. The truth.

I wanted to embed the video. But I couldn’t figure it out. So instead, here’s the full text of what he said on TV. You can read it, but you really should click on this link and watch him deliver these powerful lines. Here’s that link again.

Peace peace. Thank you, Debra. Thank you, BET. Thank you Nate Parker, Harry and Debbie Allen for participating in that.

Before we get into it, I just want to say I brought my parents out tonight. I just want to thank them for being here, for teaching me to focus on comprehension over career, and that they make sure I learn what the schools were afraid to teach us. And also thank my amazing wife for changing my life.

Now, this award – this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country – the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.

It’s kind of basic mathematics – the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

Now, this is also in particular for the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.

Now… I got more y’all – yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that toEric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.

Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money – that alone isn’t gonna stop this. Alright, now dedicating our lives, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.

There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There is no tax they haven’t leveed against us – and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us. But she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.

Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.

And let’s get a couple things straight, just a little sidenote – the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.

Thank you.

Right now, it’s hard to be black in America.
It’s hard to be Muslim in America.
It’s hard to be Latino in America.

And I can’t see a way out. In fact, the only thing I see is the state taking over more control and giving even more power to the police. So unfortunately, much like with the issue of gun control, I think things are going to have to get even worse before they get better.

Today’s post was supposed to be all about Asian supermarkets and their vegetables. But I just couldn’t do it. Sorry for the bleak thoughts on what should ordinarily be a beautiful day.

I’m going to try and turn it around. I’ll take my kids to their swimming lesson. I will eat too much dim sum with friends. And I’ll try to remember how lucky I am to not worry that a simple interaction with police officers might end my life today.

I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have that hanging over your head every day.

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  1. Too Fast to Track, Too Late to Hope? - Amanda Magee

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