I am white. My wife is black. I have black in-laws, black nephews, black nieces and black cousins. I quietly fear for them every day. I’ve seen FIRST HAND how drastically different an encounter with police can be when I am in the company of black people, versus by myself or with other white people. I’ve been pulled out of a car with my black friends and asked if I was there, “against my will.” I’ve had officers look me in the face and say, “so you think you’re black huh?” As a teenager, I was pulled over while with my black friends and photographed and strip searched next to our car because they said we “looked like gang members.” I’ve had an officer go through my bag, find my lyric book and then demand that I rap for him – “you’re a rapper so rap for me!” I’ve felt the fear, anger and humiliation. For all I know, me being white and being present in those situations may have been the only reason things didn’t turn out much worse for my companions.
Later in life, I moved to a jurisdiction with a well-respected, well-funded, well-trained and professional police department; and for the most part, my encounters with those officers have been very positive (although they did have my studio under surveillance for quite some time until one day they entered my premises without a warrant and discovered it was operated by a white guy with a business license and a firm understanding of the law. No problems since.)
I say all of that to say this…
If you are white, try to imagine being rightfully told all your life by the people you love, that the people supposedly there to protect you, could very well be a threat to you. Imagine hearing the stories of police brutality from friends, family, parents and grandparents. Imagine being told that it doesn’t matter if you did anything wrong. Imagine being expected, without training or experience in such matters, to behave and manage an encounter BETTER than those confronting you who have been trained to do so. Imagine “the talk” – not the one you got about the birds and bees, but the one about what you should do when you run into a prejudiced hothead wearing a badge and gun with an axe to grind. Try to imagine this in your culture. Try to imagine seeing the police as an occupying force in your community as opposed to “heroes” and “first responders.” This is the reality in places all across the United States.
I am a rational, reasonable man with an above average IQ. When I try to imagine getting THAT phone call from one of my family members… When I try to imagine the total grief and unabashed anger I would have towards the police officers who decided it was better to shoot and kill my loved one rather than respect his or her life and liberty as they do their own, I literally shudder. It would take every fiber within my rational mind to restrain myself from picking up my pistol and heading out to find the sons of bitches who murdered my family member. I’m not sure I would be capable of restraining myself.
So as we all watch the footage of yet another unarmed father, gun downed for apparently no other reason than looking “scary,” resist the urge to defend the police from your place of privilege. Resist the urge to tell us that “all lives matter” in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Just shut the fuck up, close your eyes, and try to imagine. Try to imagine you got that phone call. Try to imagine you just watched someone you love get shot to death on Facebook. Try to imagine the people who did it are now being paid to sit at home for a while. Then try to imagine countless people who know NOTHING of the experiences I outlined above, playing Monday morning quarterback with the murder of your family member. Still want to weigh in? I hope not. #blacklivesmatter