When I started my stand up comedy career over a decade ago, I often highlighted police brutality and the way things were mishandled during the Amadou Diallo murder case.
While I was a good story teller, highlighting the Diallo case created a couple of very predictable responses : groans (which basically meant don’t bring this up !), nervous, tempered giggles (should this be funny and is it ok to laugh ?) or audible gasps (did he really say that ?).
My intention when I began stand up like all of my creative endeavors has been simple.
Challenge and change.
White Supremacy and its offshoots (domination, racism, violence and oppression) want us to believe that people are unable to change their hearts and subsequently their minds.
Trayvon Martin was murdered over a year ago and with one jury decision and some very deliberate media coverage we are lead to believe that he earned this death.
The good black folks who go to college, pay bills, work and attend church weekly get to smugly hide behind the fact that as a “thug” with drugs in his system, he probably was up to no good or has been up to no good at one point or another.
Another group of blacks get to feel that the deck is always stacked against them so keep “hustlin”. Both of these groups (like the white folks who would never state it publicly) are thrilled that it wasn’t them.
Our seduction is constructed on the belief that if you are black it could have been you but wasn’t (safety) and if you’re white you are falsely lead to the conclusion that you are a bit safer because a “dangerous ” black man has been taken down.
White Supremacy at its finest lulls us into an us vs. them schematic and we gleefully fall into the always welcoming trap every time.
A large part of this very intricate web of lies and deception centers on the troubling way black male bodies are seen and represented.
Many black men, myself included, have been the object of sexualized and violent stereotypes designed to eliminate our humanity and squelch our power. Often seen as angry and volatile fuckbeasts, is it any wonder that when one of us gets put down there is no outrage and downright revolution.
Many of us wrap out identities in these limiting and vile straightjackets and remain confused about why we feel powerless.
Many of us wonder what can be done to reclaim power that has been stolen or seductively bargained away in exchange for “coolness”, “swag” and any other adjective that reduces us to arbiters of style with no substance to take seriously.
In the Kiss Me/Kill Me either or way black male bodies are seen, it is important to remember that so much of the way black(male)culture is constructed and then consumed is based on the understanding (commonly held beliefs) that we are physically out of control and that our bodies are not our own and in fact belong to anybody at any time.
If this disturbing trend is what drives people to not only murder our young black people but then construct a jury of peers that feels (the next time it could be and I don’t want to be attacked), we are in serious trouble.
It would be very easy and convenient to assign Zimmerman and Floridian residents the label of racists.
This incident could force Americans to have a very serious conversation about black males, racism, White Supremacy that engenders murder, and the prejudice and fear that governs interracial interactions. We are being tasked to have some hardcore discussions about fear and privilege.
Brene Brown states : We can’t have a discussion about racism without discussing privilege and we can’t discuss privilege without discussing shame. It is time for all of us to have an investigation into the amount of shame we have around race,men, masculinity, power, and heterosexist assimilation.
Most importantly, we must not shut down emotionally because the slaughter of black bodies doesn’t affect us.
Part of what makes Zimmerman’s behavior so upsetting is that at one time he witnessed some type of injustice and mistreatment of a fellow human being that was racially and youth-based and decided to do nothing.
Witnessing an injustice and doing nothing alters our thinking and behavior.
Instead of speaking up our thinking becomes: this is not my business or this person’s mistreatment is none of my business.
When this type of thinking commences, White Supremacy has already begun its seductive call.
We resist the call by having conversations and demanding change.
When is the last time you’ve had an uncomfortable talk about race, privilege, fear and domination ?