America, my heart is broken.
A couple of months ago, I wrote this letter about how awful it feels to be a Black guy who truly loves this country. And you, America, have responded by making things much, much, worse.
This article has taken longer than any other to write, because I keep having to start over with each fresh new tragedy. I started over with the murder of Terence Crutcher. I started over with the murder of Keith Scott. I even recorded an episode of Rise UP with B. Dave Walters where I talked about how it feels. But this latest insult is the last straw.
It’s a mortal sin in the online world to direct people to another web page, but go read that article because it’s important and I don’t want to misrepresent the findings. I’ll wait.
Here’s the question I want to ask, and I want you to keep in the back of your mind from now on:
Where would you be in life if you’d been treated like you were wild and dangerous since you were three years old? Literally longer than you can remember?
The findings of this study kept me up all night. Here it was in black and white (pun intended) that little Black boys were being profiled from the day they first set foot in the classroom. The study found not only that “African American students are suspended or expelled at more than twice the rate of children of any other ethnicity,” but that “in state-funded pre-K classrooms, 3- and 4-year-olds were being kicked out of school three times as often as older students. And Black children — boys mostly — were about twice as likely as Latino and white children to be expelled.”
So think about that. These kids’ earliest recollections are of objectively provably overly harsh treatment. If you’ve been around a three year old lately, you might notice that they occasionally have problems sitting still and following directions. But little Keith, little Terence, little Philando, little Alton, little DAVE get flagged early as being disruptive influences.
So besides the fact we already know that a teacher’s expectations DIRECTLY influence student performance, what happens when you’re expected to be a problem in advance? At what point do these children begin conforming to expectations, and actually become the disruptive elements that are still going to be overreacted to? At what point exactly did they have a chance to cultivate a love of learning? When were they able to invest their energies into cultivating their own unique genius?
And at what point did they learn that school was a hellish ordeal where they were perpetually treated as other? Spoiler alert: Around three years old.
Another interesting take away from that article is that Black faculty was actually more likely to be too hard on Black children. Allow me to explain to you why that is, which is something 114% of Black people will verify. Here is exactly what’s going through that teacher’s head:
“This little Black boy is not going to show out and embarrass all of us.”
An interesting reality of being Black in America is we are all connected. If you notice, 9 out of 10 times we always greet each other on the street, if only with eye contact and a nod. All that Brother and Sister stuff is actually true, there’s an innate kinship and connection between all of us.
Don’t believe me? Here’s just one example of an experience 99.9% of us shared in January 2008:
However, that connection often gets weaponized and used against us (more on this later). And a sad byproduct of this is when one of us messes up, it’s a problem for all of us. When a Black person gets out of line near us, we all cover our faces. The less of us there are in the vicinity, the more acute it becomes.
Along with that, we have ALL heard that we “have to be twice as good to get half as much.” So a Black teacher is going to make extra certain their handful of Black students are the absolute model children, even if that pressure is horrifically unfair to the child. It’s almost as if in attempting to prepare them for the unfair double standard they’ll experience in the world, we begin by inflicting it on them as toddlers.
Bonus point: We often hear about the fiction of the epidemic of Black children growing up without fathers, but more White and Latino families are raised by single parents than Black; that is a media fiction and right wing talking
The Problem with Policing.
So these little Black boys and girls are getting an objectively provably unfair chance from the start. Then they go out
into the world, where Blacks and other people of color are 3x more likely to be stopped by the police than Whites, with Blacks again 2x as likely to be arrested and 4x as likely to be threatened with arrest than their White counterparts. Source.
Young Black males are 21x more likely to be shot and killed by the police than their white peers.
It’s gotten so bad that some schools have begun teaching classes on how Black kids should interact with police to avoid getting murdered. This was highlighted in a recent report by John Oliver about police accountability that absolutely everyone needs to see:
If you follow me on Facebook (and you should) I’ve been on a tear about this. And it never fails that after presenting the above statistics, and doctoral thesis level citations and support, I run into people who basically come back with ‘yeah, well…nu-uh! And what about all the Black people who kill Black people? And what about (insert BS false equivalency I heard from inside my mirrored bubble Fox News and Facebook inspired self-righteousness)???’
After the shooting in El Cajon I made the point that police have killed WAY more Americans than ISIS has. If another nation had killed 800 people this year and counting, we’d be at war. I also made the statement that I’m exponentially more afraid of getting killed by police than I am of getting killed by a terrorist. As you might imagine, some people took exception with this undeniable reality. You can see every thin-skinned, misinformed, knee-jerk reaction that gets vomited up after another unarmed Black man gets killed, and my disassembling of each one of them. I’ve gotten to be very good at it, much better than I ever should have been, since the same flawed and lazy thinking comes up every time.
You can read the entire exchange (both the post and comments here), but be advised there is some very intense emotion and ungentlemanly and NSFW language used. I said it ALL there, so it’s easier to direct you to it rather than restate it all here. If you want to know why we’re mad, read it. If you want to know how to explain why we’re mad, read it.
I need you to understand something very important.
Last night my youngest daughter was sworn into her Girl Scout troop. As part of the ceremony they said the Pledge of Allegiance, and proceeded to recite the Girl Scout’s Promise. As a part of that, they promise to serve their country, and respect authority.
And you know what? It tied my stomach in knots.
I personally taught them the Pledge, and was so proud seeing them take pride in saying it. But now? When Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during games I can’t say I agreed with him…and then I saw how he was treated in response. I see how innocent men are murdered on camera and the narrative immediately shifts to what they must have done to deserve it. How afraid the heavily armed cops who outnumbered him were, but how he had no right to be afraid in exchange. How there can be no charges against the cop who shot the man in Miami who was literally laying on his back with his hands in the air.
I am bombarded daily by constant reminders that my life does in fact not matter. That we are something dangerous; something less than human, of no value, and not worth saving. And if you think that I’m exaggerating, pop over to the comments section on any article on FoxNews or Breitbart.com about Obama or Kapernick and feast your eyes on the comments. That’s the hill we have to climb.
I love this country. I love this country. But the United States of America has been at war with Black people since we first landed on these shores. If you didn’t know that, take the time to look at this very quick overview of the last 300 years. And if you feel the need to still dispute that, congratulations: You are part of the problem.
I don’t know what to do, America; I’m truly at a loss. You tell me.
Normally I end my articles with links to my website and social media profiles, but I’d rather use this space to spread some more awareness:
And last, but certainly not least: This truly brilliant piece on why Black people are always bringing up race