What if every time you walked to the corner store, men stood outside the doors with their hands on their guns? You’d get off the bus or step off the train and they’d be hiding on the other side of the ramp… watching. Waiting. Hunting. Another youth, 16-year-old Kimani Gray, was murdered by America’s least trained and most prominent figures of authority. Brooklyn is angry… and you don’t want Brooklyn angry. A little over a year ago, we lost Trayvon Martin to a “militia man” upholding the same values, enforcing the same stereotype: Black boys are up to no good.
I’m tired of explaining my pain.
“What did he do?” my mom asked this morning. She thinks I like just like to fight fights but she doesn’t understand. She’s a fair-skinned, Dominican woman with a Black daughter who attended a predominately white high-school and college on purpose: I was there for the education, not the people. I left both the schools with few friends, a proud understanding of who I was and experience of what the majority thought of me based on how they tended to interact with me; with fear. I’m of the darkest complexion in my immediate family; I had a different father. Fortunately, I will resemble my sons and I’ll know how they feel. Even more fortunate is that I’m a woman, and an educated one at that. I could escape if I wanted to. I could marry a man lighter than myself in an attempt to “save” my sons from the pain of being Black. I see the excitement in foreign eyes as they fantasize whether the animal within me could satisfy them better than their own. For me, that’s out of the question. Another option: I could move to a “nicer” neighborhood and find a brotha who has also “espaced” the hood –who lives in a world of forever college with white girls and kegs where they’ll never be taken home to daddy and they’re too inebriated to care. I don’t have anything personally against those brothas… they’re just not made for me, obviously. Issue is… my type die before they reach 18. Our government is always at fault.
I currently live in East New York, Brooklyn because it feels like home.
Because when my friends show up unannounced at my place trying to fix my car, my neighbors stand in their doorways and let them know they’re being watched. “The lady next door…” Carl said. My starter gave out and he was in my car double checking. “Yea. Miss Mary. She’s watching you.” I live in East New York because it’s a place where the people protect themselves better than they can be protected. I know that if I need anything, I can knock on my neighbor’s door. I know that calling 911 won’t really help because they don’t really want to.
“Can I speak to you outside?”
I had just gone to get my Vin verified for the second time. And for the second time, they wouldn’t help me. I’d even gone to another district, but they wouldn’t help me because I didn’t live in that part of Brooklyn. Meanwhile, I was taking time off from work and I had neither the time, nor patience, to deal with a dog in uniform who wanted to abuse his badge to have private conversation. “That’s a dangerous neighborhood,” he started. He’d asked where I live and what I do, but I simply couldn’t piece together what they had to do with my car’s vin record. He’d seen the BMW parked outside and had come to “warn” me someone might hit it leaving the parking lot. “I’ll move it,” I said getting up to leave, but instead he pretended to want to help me.
“I like where I live.”
What I know well is that men in uniform are still human men.
They have no real authority. If you believe in the things I believe, you know that no law of man is above that of God, so if ever I need counsel, I retreat to solitude to pray. “I’m just trying to tell you,” he said beginning his lie. What he was really telling me was that he was scared of the neighborhood. That said, I’m not sure how he thought he could help me. Maybe if I had a big bad (but really frightened and frail) officer around, I’d feel safe? I hated the sight of him and he had no idea how long it took me to gather the strength to step into that station, wading through my own disgust and disdain for that profession and anyone who considers it. I know they’re still people… but there’s something about getting paid to point pistols at your fellow man and locking them in a cage that doesn’t sit right with me… and I don’t understand how it sits right with anyone. Just because yours is a uniform I recognize, it doesn’t make me comfortable. White America’s Eagle is bordering on a swastika for Black America. Except now, the New-age Nazi’s will let you join especially if you’re a shade of brown — for a tax break and to avoid lawsuits. From all the movies I’ve seen, the best overseers in the deep South were always Black.
“I’m not here for that. I’m here for my VIN. Thank you,” I finished the conversation for us only to have him catch and attitude and stomp back inside… leaving my VIN still unverified. Meanwhile, police officers would walk through the doors smiling with their heads held high, one hand on their pistols, the other on the cuff restraining their prey’s arms behind their backs. Their conversations are only about what happened last night. Always about the hunt and the spoils. There are no conversations about making the world a better place. No one says they’re glad the other is safe. They just come in with their prized pistols and their chests sticking out because they happened to make it through another shift. But you know what? If you go out enough times looking for trouble, you’re gonna find it.
Historically, it has been the Sojourner Truths and Harriet Tubmans who were able to navigate the world, pulling their men through the trenches. This, though, is not an easy load to bear. It takes strength and courage to fully realize the weight of the world on your partner’s shoulders and help them to carry it, even when you don’t have to. But every time I look in the mirror, I know my sons will look just like me. I’ll defend them today, before their births, just like I will until they put me in the dirt.
America is not okay. We have all of these missions overseas and give a Hip-Hip artist a Grammy and the world thinks we are oh so accepting. Now, your zip code just matters more. Meanwhile, gentrification is forcing God’s children out of Jerusalem. A friend came over the other day and I sat him at my kitchen table, praising Brooklyn –East New York, specifically –to the highest. It was a glorious day and as he walked to the end of my block and looked up and down the boulevard, I feared him. This is people’s home. You don’t get to come in here and enforce living the way you think it should be lived. You shouldn’t move here if you don’t like the people next door. Or upstairs, or down the hall. That’s why I moved out of Harlem. Too many people moving in for the low price who wish you would leave so they can take your apartment. I look out for my neighbors and they look out for me. I fear bringing in faces that look like ours but care nothing about the people — like the two officers, one Black and one Hispanic, who gunned down Kimani Gray. The two officers are now on “administrative duty” because, obviously, when you wear a uniform and hold a badge, murder is excusable and killing a child has no affect on your conscience.
Kimani was a 16-year-old boy… and looked like it. You can call him “Mr. Gray,” Like the New York Times does, but by our legal system –and by his photos — that was a little kid from around the way named, Kiki. Call him, Kiki… it stings a little more when you remember he’s a child. “The teen was with a group Saturday night, but left when he saw police in an unmarked car, police said. Authorities said he was acting suspicious and plain clothes officers approached him,” reported the Huffington Post. So… if you were a teenage boy in East Flatbush, and you saw two men sitting in a car, watching you… what would you do? I would leave, you? If they then got out of their cars to approach/follow/chase/hunt you, how would you respond? Remember, they weren’t in a police car, and they’re not in uniform. Would you know they were police? Would you shout for help or defend yourself exactly as you are prepared to? Neither… you would probably get shot 7 times by men trained to shoot. & They don’t just take you down, they make sure you stay down. From the New York Times:
The autopsy report on Mr. Gray did not specify which of the seven bullets caused the death of the teenager; that determination awaits further investigation.
One bullet entered his left shoulder in the rear; two other bullets struck the back of his thighs, one in the left thigh and one in the right. Two bullets struck from the front, hitting his right thigh; one bullet entered his left side, striking his lower rib cage; and the last bullet hit his left lower forearm…
Mr. Gray’s revolver was loaded with four bullets, the police said.
From the Washington Post:
Gray, whose pictures show him sporting beads worn by Bloods members, was arrested on almost a dozen charges since turning 16 last year. His arrests include grand and petit larceny, possession of stolen property and inciting a riot.
& you’re telling me no one recognized this boy?
He was arrested a dozen times and these wonderful law-enforcement agents never took the time to sit with him? Why was he in the streets? No reason? Cuz he’s Black? Because that’s what these kids do? You can’t wear anything anymore without it being attached to a gang. What if they just match his outfit for the day? If a white boy wears red beads… does that make him a gang member? What outfits do people wear when they go slaughter classrooms full of children in the middle of Connecticut? I question those arrests. I know about charges… because I’ve had my own. 46 arrests (mostly disorderly conduct –I know that one & so did MLK Jr.) were made at a vigil for Kimani on Wednesday, March 13th. I have a question though, why did police need to be there? In riot gear? If they were remorseful, the should have brought flowers.
From the NY Daily News:
The protesters eventually backtracked to the vigil site where the parents of Ramarley Graham — an unarmed teenager fatally shot by police in the Bronx last year — were waiting. “It never seems to end,” said Frank Graham, Ramarley’s father. “The community has a right to be angry.”
But City Councilman Jumaane Williams, a frequent NYPD critic, blasted outsiders who he said escalated tensions. “Please stay the HELL out of our community will only agitate our kids,” Williams fumed on Twitter. “It’s dangerous and counterproductive.” “
I agree with one revision: Stay the f*ck out of our community.
It’s like a permanent state of war out here. Why do police officers have to patrol the streets? Who are they protecting? It’s not that we are afraid it’s that they are. They like to approach people living their lives because they live them differently than they do… they call us suspicious because we don’t trust you and you can see it on our faces. Frequently, in these neighborhoods, you’ll find people are less afraid to fight back. I prefer the Mob to police officers. At least they cared about families. At least they saw people as humans. At least they lived in the area. At least they wouldn’t kill children.
You may have no idea what it means to be a Black man. To be hunted. I don’t either, but I pray for sons and the strength to have them someday. I also pray for their safety. It’s not right here. It’s not over. Our sons are too strong, too resilient and too proud. They defend themselves too well. Our country has reacted with fear. There is a silent civil war in this country too many are afraid to speak on and too many would rather move away from to avoid. If other countries knew how belittled and worthless we still feel on our own dirt, they might not trust American forces to establish peace overseas –and they shouldn’t trust them. Government is not the end all be all. If they wanted Kimani off the street, they should have yelled over to him from that unmarked car and said, “Young brotha, we’re NYPD. Go home.” That’s all. They should care. Instead… they continue killing our sons and call then “Mr.” because respect only comes after death for us.
I feel such sorrow…
Rest in Paradise, KG.