Vilification and Justification

During his acceptance speech at the Golden Globe’s, Common said that Selma changed his humanity. I can completely agree with him. Ferguson changed my reason for existing. When we constantly say, “Stay Woke,” we are not spewing out a phrase just to be cute. We’re not throwing out another #hashtag that we want to trend. We are begging you to be conscious. We are pleading with you to open your eyes. We are insisting that you pay your rent.

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Every 28 hours, a black man or woman is murdered by a police officer. Therefore, roughly, every 28 ½, a black man or woman is vilified by the media. Math isn’t my preferred subject, so we’ll just say every 29 hours a police officer’s actions are justified.

I am one of the “good ones.” You could even go a little bit further and label me as a “Respectable Negro.” I wouldn’t say I’m New Black like Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar, but I am an educated, ambitious, successful black woman in America. I’m Southern. I’m sweet. I dress well. I love Jesus and I’m nice to people. Apple pie is America’s favorite dessert, so I suppose I’m the peach cobbler for black people or maybe the sweet potato pie. If I were to be in a compromising situation with a police officer, all of my sweet “Southerness” would be thrown out of the window.

The media would slander me and contrary to popular belief, respectability politics would not save me.

I wrote a Facebook status the other day about an experience in Kroger. I needed to stop at the grocery store to get a few items. I went into Kroger in all black, combat boots and a hoodie. I got all the side eyes in the produce aisle. Not because the grapes looked sketchy (they did), but because my very existence in addition to wearing all black was intimidating. Not because I’m an intimidating person, but because my skin is intimidating to people. I passed on the overpriced, sketchy grapes, but I couldn’t help but to think that those who side eyed me and grabbed their purses probably thought that my EBT card was low and I needed to feed all of my kids. If something would have gone down in Kroger that day, the media would have painted a picture of a militant, angry Black woman who went into Kroger looking for trouble.

Let’s just map out all of my characteristics that the media would use to build their case against my character.

  • I enjoy the occasional glass of wine = alcoholic
  • I’m an introvert = Sociopath
  • I’m an activist = militant, terrorist
  • I’m divorced from a former Marine = unpatriotic, traitorous and I’d probably slut shamed.

Some of you might be reading this and thinking that the above illustration is a bit superfluous, but this is the reality of a black person in America. For instance, no one cares that Michael Brown was enrolled in college. The storage manager has repeatedly said that Michael Brown was not the person who robbed his store. Despite these truths, the lies and slander of Michael Brown’s character is what rings true in the minds of those who choose to believe that an innocent young man was a “thug” and deserved to die. Tamir Rice’s age was a non factor to those who dismissed his murder. Aiyana Jones was labeled as a casualty of war.

If I were to be gunned down in the streets, my efforts to advocate for humanity would be erased and replaced with whatever the media would cherry pick to destroy my character.

Put a loved one into the forefront of your mind. Think of the good and bad about them. If they were to die, what would you want their legacy to be?

In 28 hours, you will have a choice. Which narrative will you believe?

-Tashara

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