by Oseye Boyd, The Indianapolis Recorder
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” James Baldwin wrote those words decades ago. Quoting Baldwin in this space feels like deja vu, but that sentence bears repeating. Baldwin’s words are more poignant than ever and continue to resonate because here we are again.
The words came to me as I watched a video of a white woman feigning fear as she called the police on a Black man when she was the one who broke the law. The words came to me as I read the story of a white woman who said two Black men abducted and killed her son when she actually drowned the boy. Those words kept coming to me as I watched a video of another Black man being killed by someone sworn to uphold and protect the law.
Here. We. Are. Again.
We are once again reeling from the death of an unarmed Black person at the hands of the police. We are once again trying to understand how to make sense of senselessness. And, I’m enraged.
Like so many Black men and women before him George Floyd didn’t have to die.
Floyd died after a police officer used his knee to pin Floyd for eight minutes. For eight full minutes one person held down another person by keeping a knee on another’s neck. Rightfully, this police officer and three others involved in the incident were fired. However, I’d like to know how this officer thought his actions were appropriate. The answer is simple: Floyd’s humanity was lost on the cop since the system is set up as us versus them.
The officer who pinned Floyd by the neck was white, but honestly, I would be just as angry if the officer was Black, Latinx or Asian. For me, this isn’t about the race of the cop as much as it is the system in which the officer operates and the race of the man who died. The system is unjust toward Black people, and the people who operate in it have a duty to rectify it.
But that rarely happens. Instead, we’re asked to believe a system created by fallible people is somehow infallible.
As per the usual, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis in a statement asked people not to rush to judgment. Where is this request for grace for the victims? Instead Black victims are blamed, maligned and scrutinized. He or she was “no angel” is the common refrain. Next come questions about why we don’t protest killings in our communities. We do, but because Black people are invisible it goes unnoticed. We can protest both, by the way, but civilians aren’t police officers who are charged with upholding the law. Police officers stand apart because they’re supposed to live by a different code of ethics.
It’s been several years since Kap protested police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem. Instead of understanding Colin Kaepernick’s protest many in white America got bent out of shape and refused to listen. Where is the All Lives Matter crowd now? They’re so quick to retort All Lives Matter when we say Black Lives Matter as if we said only Black Lives Matter. All lives don’t matter until Black lives do, which was the whole point. But nuance isn’t America’s forté.
The Kap protestors and All Lives Matter crowd and so many others are silent and oblivious to what it’s like to be Black in America.
We are angry. We are frustrated. We are exasperated. We are scared. We are hurt.
Living in a country where you have to prove your humanity and you deserve to be treated as such takes a toll on your mental health — collectively and individually. Our humanity was stripped from us the moment we became chattel, and we’ve been fighting to get it back ever since. It seems to be a losing battle. The soldiers are weary, but I know we will never give up.
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
Maybe one day these words won’t ring true.