August 8, 2016

The Black Experience in America: Stop Saying we have to do Better.

black lives matter protest sign

Charles Barkley will be hosting a new series called, “The Race Card.”

This news is disturbing, but by no means surprising. Barkley is the Bill O’Reilly of retired Black athletes, and his punitive pontification about the black experience underscores how far removed he is from it. He’s flagrant in his freedom to say what he wants, shooting from the hip with no consideration for who gets hit.

So, when Charles Barkley recently directed black folk to do better, I wanted to scream.

I hate hearing, “we got to do better.”

I’m not quite sure what doing better means or to whom this directive is referring. When I inventory friends and family, I am nothing but proud. But more importantly, they are all beautiful human beings trying to navigate their lives as best they can. So who has to do better?

It incenses me when conversation about police violence against black folks is challenged by accounts of violence within the black community. Most, if not all black folks, whatever their beliefs, are aware of the violence and crime devastating some of our communities; we’re not okay with it. And as a community, we have addressed these issues by creating programs and organizations that cater to improving our circumstances.

We know what we gotta do; trust me.

To be clear: police violence against the black community is a staple issue nurtured by pathological racism that continues to impregnate America. The media and those who feel their privilege is under attack continue to roil violence by police and violence within black communities, often engineering a narrative that blames black folks for their own demise. Black women and men who have died at the hands of law enforcement often have their pasts unearthed in an effort to tarnish their character. Criminal records, even traffic tickets, are put on display to minimize the value of their lives and vindicate irresponsible violent acts.

The vitriolic actions of some police officers in response to the presence of a black person are not a matter of safety—how can it be if the black women and men being killed are unarmed? We can talk about Black people doing better, but why are police officers not held to those same, if not higher, standards?

Black people are not at war with the police; the police are at war with black people.

There are great police officers who conduct themselves with humility and who are committed to protecting everyone, but there are also officers who dangerously abuse their authority. There are great human beings who happen to be black, that epitomize humility and try with all they have, despite their circumstances, to be better individuals. But, there are also black people who act irresponsibly and carelessly, committing crimes with no concern for repercussions.

The actions of some do not represent the whole, but white media outlets paint a mural of madness around the black experience that massages the belief that we are violently deviant.

We can’t have a real conversation about the black experience, or the violence and crime destroying some of our communities, if we refuse to acknowledge the cancer of racism that produced them.

We have to talk about the poor quality of public education that children receive, not to mention the poor physical condition of some of these schools. We have to talk about housing, and how black folks are disproportionately turned down for home loans. We have to talk about the lack of equity in opportunities and compensation in the job market. We have to talk about the lack of equity in sentencing—often white criminals get less time than black criminals when committing the same crime. We have to talk about the incredible psychological impact of racism against black people and how that affects our health and mortality.

We have to talk about the brutal history of slavery in this country—not as an event, but a major contributor to the American cultural construct that continues to enslave us in myriad ways. The Emancipation Proclamation was not a magical brush to heal the mental and physical scars of racism. Instead, it was a springboard to the rise of the KKK and the solidification of racism as the canon of American culture.

courtesy of author, Cherina Jones

We have not arrived.

Black folks are no more violent or deviant than white people, but we live in a country that has cut off our legs and demanded that we run—that encourages us to savor and be grateful for the crumbs that fall in our laps. At every turn, black people are debased for some aspect of who we are, and chastised for responding to the deliberate system of oppression designed to destroy us.

We are expected to behave and acquiesce to how we are (mis)treated, while having our intelligence insulted by misguided bigots who often use Oprah, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and other Black celebrities as evidence that racism doesn’t exist.

But racism does exist.

Black people are people. We are not asking for special treatment; we are asking for equal treatment, and for America to acknowledge and correct her transgressions.

The color of our skin should not dictate how we live or die. Stop killing us for being black.


Author: Cherina Jones

Image: Author’s Own; Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

Editor: Toby Israel


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