It was all good just a week ago. Seven days ago my social media feeds looked quite different. People in my circle were discussing the Kylie Jenner challenge and whether or not $50 was too much for a man to spend on a woman’s meal. Among the Black women in my circle, there was frustration that only 100 people showed up to march for Rekia Boyd in New York City. Then the mainstream media picked up on the situation in Baltimore, began their sensationalist coverage and all hell broke loose. And as usual, Americans have hopped on their preferred bandwagon.
I cannot pretend to be surprised by any of this. Back in November, I said to myself that it would only be a matter of time before we arrived at this junction again. Another incident of police brutality would end up in the spotlight. The right-wing echo chamber would prattle on about thugs. My people would rush to the defense of their prize: the heterosexual, cis-gendered African-American male. I should be used to this Pavlovian conditioning but it is still fascinating to observe. I can’t think of any other issue which provokes this level of wrath from my people.
It’s a different day in America but we are dealing with the same issues. There are younger players on the stage but we are following the same script. Twenty-three years after the riots in Los Angeles another American city is burning, and I’m bewildered by those who seem to think this is a novel occurrence.
If you let some folks on social media tell it this is the beginning of the end! The fall of the American republic is imminent! The revolution is on! I don’t see how a revolution is afoot when the economy, military, and political structure of the United States all remain firmly in the hands of the ruling class. As such it is hard to take those making such pronouncements seriously.
The level of delusion pushed by these armchair activists wouldn’t be as disturbing if children were not involved. Yes, I said children because that’s who I see in the images coming out of Baltimore.
I will not heap judgment on them, for I honestly don’t feel I have the right to. I cannot tell them that their anger, frustration, and hopelessness is unjustified. I can’t even tell them that I truly understand what they go through. I’ve lived the majority of my life in Seattle, and we simply don’t have the entrenched inequality and racism here that is seen in other regions of the nation. My peeps who visit from cities like NYC and Chicago have expressed utter shock at how ‘nice’ our housing projects are and how safe our ‘hood’ is compared to their hometown. So I won’t even pretend to know the lives of these youth intimately.
But I most certainly will come for the heads of the adults outside of the region cheering these children on as they face a heavily militarized police force, armed with nothing but rocks and adrenaline. I loathe in growing inequality in my country, but the mother in me bristles at those who expect kids to be cannon fodder in that fight.
The position is very inconsistent. On one hand, these types are livid(rightfully so in my opinion)when African-American minor children are treated like adults by law enforcement and school officials. Yet they applaud children taking on an adult role in protests and uprising. It is illogical to demand that others treat your young gently while simultaneously exalting them as ready for war.
I cannot esteem those in my community who would beam with pride as African-American children face tear gas and assault at the hand of a police force and National Guard that they are not trained to deal with. I cannot follow and respect those who demand the women of our community consciously place themselves in danger. We are all supposed to unflinchingly be ready to die for a vague notion of liberation, to spill our blood at the drop of a dime in service to a movement with no leader, discipline or organization.
But the truth is that I’m not about that life. I’m not going to spill my blood recklessly, to pour out the only life I have and leave my child motherless. I don’t believe in this cause and have little patience for the false bravado being currently exhibited in conversation. Encourage our youth to engage in suicidal actions? Coax the women of our community, those who will bear and raise the next generation, into the line of fire? Demand that one be ready to die for the sake of the ‘revolution’? I will have no part in that. I’m not ready to die. I choose to live, and in doing so not foolishly squander what I have, this gift made possible by the endurance of my ancestors, this freedom that they couldn’t see.