Something needs to be said about the public response to recent acts of police brutality, says Morgan Ogryzek
I’m not sure when we first met. Was it after Trayvon Martin wore the hoodie? Did you appear after Sandra Bland’s traffic violation? Was it after twelve-year-old Tamir Rice picked up that toy gun? I cannot seem to remember our initial encounter.
Let us recall the powerful speech given by Jesse Williams not too long ago at the BET Awards.
“…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…”
Of course, we cannot forget your public backlash to his words. Not only did you become another trend on Twitter, but you even petitioned for Williams’ removal from Grey’s Anatomy. I cannot hide my confusion. Why is it wrong for a Black man to speak of the injustices he faces in a country that claims to be equal for all? This is just one of my unanswered questions.
What you seemed particularly offended by was Williams’ discussion of police brutality.
“Why do you always have to make it about race?” you said. “This is reverse racism!” you also said.
A very recent encounter was this past Wednesday. I checked twitter and saw you trending under an unfamiliar name: Alton Sterling. There was also a video. I decided to watch it. Immediately following the video, it began to make sense. By “make sense,” I am referring to the expected pattern of your actions, as opposed to a logical reaction to a tragedy. Alton Sterling was another Black man brutally murdered by police officers. He was a husband, a brother, and a father. Yet, you refused to see anything other than his Blackness.
The story goes: Alton Sterling was selling his CD’s, as he usually did, outside of a convenient store. He was then tackled, thrown to the ground, taserd, and then shot several times. If you change the name and the details, this becomes the unfortunate narrative of being Black in the “land of the free,” and the realistic fear of many. Still, that was not the end of you.
The next morning, you were an even bigger trend under another unfamiliar name: Philando Castile. Another traumatic video surfaced of an officer senselessly shooting a Black man in the passenger seat of a car for merely following the given instructions. The graphic video reminded Black youth of the lessons from our parents on what to do if we were ever pulled over by the cops. “Always inform the officer of what you are reaching for. No sudden movements. Tell the officer where your identification is located.” As Black kids learned of the shooting of Philando Castile, they were reminded that their childhood lessons were not enough; they were not protected.
So yes, #BlackLivesMatter, because since when is selling CD’s worthy of death.
Yes, #BlackLivesMatter, because since when is the melanin of one’s skin synonymous to a shooting target. Yes, #BlackLivesMatter, because your “color-blind” approach is only a modern form of racism that neglects the inherent struggles associated with Blackness. Yes, #BlackLivesMatter, because you do see color, and so did the officers before they choked Eric Garner to death after catching him for selling cigarettes. Yes, #BlackLivesMatter, because the judicial system protects a White rapist with a sentence to four months, while a Black man caught for stealing cigarettes is immediately shot twelve times.
Unfortunately, there is no way to eloquently conclude this type of letter. As much as I desire an ending, I do not believe you do. You continue, unmoved, to stare at the growing pile of Black corpses on the screen, at the new and unfamiliar hashtags on Twitter. Perhaps you purchase our music, flaunt our cornrows, or paint random African tribal dots over your face for Coachella. You thrive in a world that capitalizes on Blackness, yet is numb to Black deaths.
So goodbye for now. I suppose I’ll see you next time a celebrity criticizes racism, or the next time an innocent Black person is shot.