Thursday, August 14, 2014

#ForThoseWhoHaveBeenGunnedDown

If you watch the news or troll social media at all, I'm sure you've seen multiple postings, link shares, pictures, and status updates regarding the recent shooting and killing of black people in America. The most recent trend that has really caught my attention, is the "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown" posts. These posts showcase two or more photos of young black people, asking which photo would the media use if they were gunned down, hence the hashtag. In comparing the pictures, it is interesting to see the difference a simple change of clothes and posing can make in perception. Most of the postings showcased a less formal  picture, in which the poster is wearing casual/street clothes, and the other is a more formal picture in which the poster is wearing a graduation gown, suit, dress or uniform of some sort. I suppose the latter is supposed to showcase a more "respectable" side- the side that we often feel is not publicized enough by the media. But the more I looked at the postings, the more concerned I became. I found myself concerned because the more I saw the pictures, the more I came to realize that the issue of the portrayal of black people in the news is not about the clothes we wear or the pose we choose; it's about the skin we inherit and the associations and societal implications that come with it.

(left) "Wiz Khalifa"- Halloween 2013, (right) Miss Kentucky, Miss America 2011


I understand that the point of the pictures was to really get people thinking about the way black people are targeted and portrayed by the media. I get that. But what I don't get is how unfair it is that we have to feel that our jeans and hoodie are any less respectable than a graduation gown, suit, dress, or uniform. At the end of the day, underneath the clothes, and underneath our skin, we are human and THAT is why we should be respected and treated as such.  But the fact that we have been made to feel that we must share our accolades and be dressed and in a suit to be respected or at least appear to be respectable is once again an example and reminder of what it is like to be black in America. It is a reminder that in addition to the skin color that we cannot escape, our casual dress in a hoodie and jeans is also a threat. Society has taught us that regardless of who we are and what we know, the color of our skin is a threat, so to compensate for the innate threat that we are, we must dress and present ourselves in a certain way as a deflection of our blackness. That is the bigger issue here. It's not just about what photo the media would use if we were gunned down, it is about why we can't be respected as human beings regardless of being college bound, having a "good job", or good standing in our communities. It's about why we have to be viewed as respectable or despicable based on our attire, because the bottom line is that it's not really about the clothes or the presentation. Deaths like that of Mike Brown are painfully unwarranted reminders that racism, classism, and profiling are very real in America.

I am black. I did not ask to be black. I was born this way thanks to my black mother and my black father.  I embrace it and I love it and I celebrate it. Events like these affect me in a way that I am almost unable to verbalize without sounding angry or passive aggressive because I am so incredibly overwhelmed with emotions and realizations- realizing that someone who knows nothing about me would hate me, profile me, and/or even kill me all because of my black skin. And yet, we still have (white) people who want to sing Kumbaya by the fire as we all hold hands and imagine a colorblind world. You're not making anything better by choosing not to acknowledge the color of someone else's skin- you're not color blind, you are just choosing to be blind to the problems and issues created by a society that undercuts and preys on the minority, while protecting and building up the majority. All of this business about being colorblind is a slap in the face to those of us who do not have the luxury of drifting through life without constant reminders that after years and years and years and working towards true freedom and equality, young black men are still being unjustifiably killed in the street by the law who is SUPPOSED to protect and serve THE PEOPLE. Are we not the people?  

A few months ago, I posted a photo of my "I love being blackwristband and someone commented, "I think we need to start a trend of 'being human is great'. Not just a specific color."  Being human is great, but how can I sit around and celebrate being human when people who look like me are being killed in the streets like animals? How can I celebrate being human when people who look like me are being portrayed as hooligans in the news, not just because they are wearing a hoodie and jeans, but because they are black and in order to be respected they must overcompensate with suits, ties, graduation gowns, education, accolades, and good standing? We are all human, regardless of race, religion, etc...yeah, yeah, yeah..all of the good stuff. I get it. I acknowledge that beyond our skin, the common bond that we all share regardless of anything that may diversify us, is that we are human. I acknowledge that. I get it. But please do not attempt to trivialize the vocalization and celebration of my black skin, because although we are all human, society does not always treat us that way. Another black soul has been lost to injustice. I am sad. I am frustrated. I am confused. My heart is heavy. I am hurting. We are hurting.

I don't care what picture they use to portray us in the news, because I know that what we are up against is deeper than that. This is about injustice, prejudice, and societal woes. This is about bringing peace to another lost soul.  #ForThoseWhoHaveBeenGunnedDown, we must take a stand. We must fight (not literally- peace and power, y'all). Fight for justice and peace. We must fight for ourselves, for those who came before us, and for those who will come after us, because our souls cannot rest at the hands of injustice.


2 comments:

  1. This is the best thing I've read since Mike Brown's death (I looked you up from #iftheygunnedmedown). Thank you for noting the stupidity and short-sightedness of "colorblindness". Everyone should be proud of who they are, regardless of the clothes they're wearing. Far too many people let themselves get "tricked" by bad lighting, a hoodie, and a glower.

    White people have the same pictures, by the way, we just don't get gunned down often enough to make it a thing for us. We also get the benefit of the doubt from the media - if I got shot by the police, you wouldn't get thousands of people screaming that I'm a thug just because I look like Walter White.

    Keep up the excellent writing. I'm looking forward to reading what else you have to say.

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    1. Very valid points and understanding, Jeffrey. Thank you!

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