Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"He Was No Angel": There is No Such Thing as Black Innocence

There is absolutely no regard for Black life. I say that without further qualification.

I continue to be astounded by the way Mike Brown's death has been disrespected. He is continually victim blamed for his own death despite the overwhelming amount of evidence (both testimonial and biological in the form of an autopsy) proving that he was executed by a Ferguson PD cop.

And yet, people continue to suggest that the true victim is the murderer. The continual narrative is that Mike Brown somehow deserved to be executed.

I was utterly disgusted by the New York Times' piece about Mike Brown where the author clearly intended to paint him as a boy who was deserving to be murdered.

The New York Times mentioned various things about him meant to defame him. It sounded as if the author was desperate to assassinate his character. They mentioned that he used pot (the most commonly used recreational drug). They mentioned that he was a handful as a child (aren't most kids?). That he didn't have the best grades (most kids don't have stellar GPAs!). All of these pejorative comments were summed up by the phrase that he "was no angel."

So a Black boy needs to be an angel in order to not be deserving of death? Is this the conclusion of the New York Times article?

This relates to the ludicrous nature of respectability politics.

In a way, respectability politics doesn't really exist. I say that in the sense that it isn't possible for a Black person to ever be worthy and valuable within a white supremacist context. This is abundantly true if an apparently reputable publication is using facts that are true of many American teenagers to paint Mike Brown as somebody deserving of being executed.

In fact, things are so dire that a white person's dog is given more value than a Black person. And I say that without hyperbole when we consider that a police officer was fired for shooting a middle class white person's dog but put on paid leave for murdering a Black child.

But even the New York Times article stepped around its true conclusion. It isn't that Mike Brown deserved to die because he wasn't perfect. He didn't deserve to die because he got into "at least one scuffle" or because he had tried marijuana or because he wasn't constantly on the honor roll. He deserved to die because he's Black. According to white supremacist discourse every Black person deserves to die.

Fundamentally, the idea that being respectable will save you is dangled over Black people's head. But it's a false promise. Respectability politics is an ideology that Black people use to police ourselves -- to limit ourselves. And to what gain?

There is no such thing as being a respectable Black person outside of the Black community. Everything that makes us respectable in our own eyes is dismissed in the larger world.

To be Black is to be un-respectable.

At the end of the day if our humanity can be parsed by not getting good grades or experimenting with drugs then we were never accorded humanity to begin with.

Mike Brown is blamed for his own murder not because it's at all possible for his murder to be his own fault. But because culturally there is no blame to be laid anywhere when a Black person is murdered. And certainly there is no blame to be laid on a white police officer.

People are judged right or wrong not according to facts but identity. A low income Black boy could never be "right" when judged against a white police officer no matter the circumstances.

No, Mike Brown wasn't an angel as none of us are. But he was a human being that had the right to life just like anyone else. He did not deserve to be executed while on his knees with his hands raised in surrender.

And it's beyond troubling that not all of America is on the same page. What does this say about the perception of Black people? What does this say about how much has not changed throughout American history if we are dealing with this reality in 2014?

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