Like a lot of people I sat glued to my TV last night watching the news coverage in Ferguson MO waiting for the announcement and the aftermath of it. The death of Mike Brown is a tragedy, as is the death of anyone. The fact is that an 18-year-old is dead and a cop’s life changed forever over a pack of cigars. That is tragic. A mother is mourning the loss of her child. That is tragic. The racist comments, coming from both sides at this point, are tragic. The fact that it is 2014 and people still insist on labeling others as “them” is tragic. I sit here totally heartbroken about the entire situation.
There are so many things going on in my head that I really don’t even know how to process, so I am going to the one thing that helps me; writing. I’ve been praying for everyone involved in this case since I first heard about it. I do not think that Wilson shot this 18-year-old in cold blood and I don’t think that means Mike Brown’s death is somehow less sad because of that fact.
I moved to Amarillo when I was 15 and I learned a lot about racism that I had never been exposed to in my entire life. I had never thought of black people any differently than myself. I grew up in a small cow town in south Texas where we had gay people in open relationships in Jr. High and the star athlete was black and it never occurred to me that he was anything other than that coolest person alive. Everyone in my town held him up like the prince of Kenedy ,Texas. He was great at everything he did and everyone that I knew wanted to be his friend. There weren’t that many black people in my town, but I never saw race as an issue. When I began going to high school at Palo Duro in Amarillo that all changed. For the first time in my life I was scared of people who were other races than me. That included my family. I was never mesican enough for them. Even though I went through a phase of trying to fit in with Dickies and flannel shirts.
I somehow became friends with one of the star football players who saw the look of fear on my face as I hid in the phone booth refusing to go to class with all “those people” one my first day at my new school. He felt sorry for me and took it upon himself to help me navigate through this new experience. What I found was that even if my family didn’t really accept me for who I was (a book reading band nerd), the black community did. My first boyfriend (who is now my husband) had introduced me to rap music and that was the common ground for me and my new friends. I liked Eazy-E and Snoop Dogg and music was my life saver. I began to go to church with the black kids and go to Sunday dinner at their grandmother’s houses. I was still a shy nerd, but they taught me what acceptance and loyalty is. When people would mess with me at school, they had my back. I learned the G code, which is that you hold down those that you love and they will always hold you down too. If you talk shit, then they will confront you so the best thing to do is to not talk shit or to talk it to someone’s face and not talk behind their back. I learned don’t start none, won’t be none. I learned how to stand up for what I believed in, that there is injustice in this world and that everything is harder in the hood. The level of frustration over life in the hood is always high. After a shooting at my school I stood behind a mic for the first time and learned that I had a voice. I found the awesomeness that is a Friday night on the dance floor dancing to beat under the cloud of smoke with your girls. There is no place in this world that I would rather be than on that dance floor.
I have seen how I am treated differently than my black friends. I have seen how people who know nothing about them label them as thugs or criminals. I have seen people walk into a club that has “no guns allowed” signs and start shooting. I have hidden under tables or in my car when fights break out. I have also broken up fights. I have also been in fights using bottles or whatever I can to defend myself against someone who is trying to beat me down. I’ve been arrested many times.
Now, I live in the suburbs and there is a huge difference in my life compared to my life then. And I would still rather be there. Not to be acting up still, but to help the people who I love. I love the hood. That is where my heart lives. I know there are great people with untapped potential there who are oppressed by some invisible force that nobody can really ever understand without living there. I don’t even understand it because no matter how long I lived there, I wasn’t black living there. There is so much that the media doesn’t and won’t ever catch on camera.
I also see how people see my husband’s cowboy hat and automatically label him a racist redneck and have no clue that he is the one who introduced me to Hip Hop and more than anything the fact that he can bump some Lil Wayne in his truck while wearing a Stetson is the reason WHY I love him as much as I do.
That is why rappers rap the songs they do. Because that is their life experience.It’s also a way out of it. That is why I listen to rap music. Because a lot of those songs are like paintings using words to express what life is like when you are poor, black and live in the ghetto. Too bad that most people either listen to it to try to act hard or don’t listen to it because it “promotes violence”. Violence is part of life to some people; it doesn’t need to be “promoted” when it’s being lived.
When someone walks into a college library and shoots at “good” kids there are cries for something to be done. But when a kid in the ghetto is shot in the head outside of a club , nobody knows about it except those watching the local news. There are no cries for help. Because shootings on “that side of town” are the norm, but heaven forbid that those things happen in the suburbs where “good” people live.
I do not understand why, if I get this mother’s pain, get the anger of the black community that somehow I think all cops are killers. Or if I don’t think Wilson killed Brown in cold blood that I somehow have to think every police officer in America is a Noble Peace Prize winner. Why does everything have to be so black and white (no pun intended) and I have to choose sides? I don’t. The only side that I am on is the human side. I am Catholic, I mourn the loss of any life. Whether they are innocent or a thug makes no difference to me, or to God. He loves them the same.
I pray for the repose of the soul of Mike Brown and for his family. I hope that everyone who is making comments on this case one way or the other take time out of their day to do the same.