Life of Racism
It’s 2011. He got a letter from Mom the other day. He loved to get her letters because she wrote long ones. If he read slow and then read it through again it could take up a good bit of time. He usually read her letters over and over. Just knowing she was there thinking about him helped him get through some of the bad days. She never lost hope in him and he couldn’t let her down. He tried to pray but it really didn’t seem to do much for him.
If he did happen to get a letter from his brother or his cousin, which didn’t happen very often, they never really said much. Mostly newsy things about the family but nothing of any real substance. His mom never wrote. She just don’t. She hardly wrote when he was in juvy, either. Said she was too busy, and she was. She couldn’t write because it hurt her too much he was on there. Hurt her? She was raising his sisters kids and working two jobs. He said he understood. That’s okay. That’s how family letters are. But the family he never hears from, he’s done waiting for them. He keeps giving them ultimatums in his head. when he doesn’t hear from them he makes new ultimatums.
“If they don’t write back to me by next week then I’m just going to take them off my visitors list.”
He’s threatened that one more than once. Of course, they never knew it and they never wrote back anyway. Everyone just goes on with their lives while he sits here year after year. Except for Sonni, his mom. These are the thoughts that go through his mind, over and over:
“They never come and see me so why am I supposed to care any anymore about them?”
“Let them come and find they can’t get in. Serves them right”. He was steaming now.
” When has anyone cared enough to come and find out how I am?”
“They don’t know what it’s like to know your family doesn’t care about you”
“Why did they stop loving me?”
“Why won’t Morgan bring my son so I can see him – at least once in awhile? Is she trying to punish me for not being there? Has she forgotten about him completely.”
“Paybacks are a bitch. Someday they might need me and I won’t be there for them.”
But he knows that not true. That’s not the way he is. He’s just angry and hurt. He’s the most hurt by Morgan. He never did nothing for her to treat him the way she does. Takes his son away from him? Brush him out of her life like he’s some kind of dead fly.
“Why is she keeping my son from me? Is she trying to hurt me?” He yelled at the walls. “If she is, she’s succeeding!” He added. “It’s my son, too!” Every time he thought about that, it started to make his blood boil. He started to breathe faster. The words caught in his throat.
“Is he calling some other man, daddy?” When he gets out and sees his son and Morgan tells him that some other man asked his son to call him ‘daddy’ it would rip his heart out. He’s the only thing he ever did in his life that gave him any value for his existence was this little boy. That bothered him more than anything else, losing his son, and his son calling another man, daddy. It was so frustrating not being able to do anything about it. She rarely wrote to him so he could know how he is. He knew mom got on her case to write and send pictures. Then sometimes she did. He didn’t know if she would it at all if she wasn’t made to feel guilty.
He stopped, walked over to look out the window and whispered the words, “He might be too old to want to call me daddy. He night be in high school before I get out.” Those words crushed his soul. Tears started running down his face.
“What if he doesn’t want me around?” He paused. “What if he says it’s too late. It’s been too long?”
He pulled his lips in and bit down on them, thinking, ” He could tell me to look at my own life and see how bad I screwed it up, so who am I tell him what he should and shouldn’t do?” It worried him, thinking his son may not think he had any worth as a dad or maybe didn’t want to know him. He was four years old now. He was missing all the good parts of his childhood.
He left the window to go sit on his bed, rocking back and forth, thinking what the worst thing was that could happen. “What if he ends up in here just like me”.
He laid back on his bed, waiting for food, and closed his eyes to think.
He knew what the statistics were. He knew black people got locked up six times more than anyone else. He knew the newspapers and TV tried to make people believe black people were mostly all losers and they did more crimes than white people did because they weren’t smart enough to get jobs. They were just lazy and drug addicts all high on crack.
He knew there was a lot of white people who thought they were smarter that black people. He knew a lot of blacks get pulled over and their only crime was, ‘Driving while black’ or ‘Walking while black or they had a sweatshirt on with a hoodie and that made them suspicious of doing crimes. He knew white people weren’t picked up nearly so much. Cops probably didn’t even go into white people’s neighborhoods. They didn’t cruise white people’s corners. He knew that for a fact. (2) No white business man or attorney or banker was going to let one of their precious kids go to jail. They had too much money to let any of their kids pay for the they things they did. But it was okay to send black kids and rip up their families.
White kids in their fancy cars drive into black neighborhoods to buy their drugs. They bust the black people who sell it but they don’t stop the white people in the cars that buy it. Oh, the poor white people went to jail, too, and other minorities, because they didn’t have any attorneys, too. but not better off neighborhoods. They had the money to pay their way out of their kids having the same punishment. And because of what gets put on TV and the paper, they made white people afraid of black people, like they were all trying to get them somehow. White people were scared of black people. Just walk by a white person and you can see the look in their eyes that wonders if they’re going to be safe on the same sidewalk as you.
Only black people did things like that. Ha! Cops didn’t need no reason to yank anyone off the sidewalk, slam them against a wall and tell them to put their hands up on the wall, kick their legs apart and search them. Threaten them. Punch them, throw them to the ground and kick them. Cuff them and have them sit on the curb. Haul them down to the police station and get harassed. They didn’t need a reason. Just being black was guilty enough for them. If wearing a hoodie was all it took to become a criminal, nobody but black people must wear hoodies.
When he got out of Juvy when he was 21, His mama came and picked him up. They were going to have a party for him at home that night but it was after 10:00 when they got there. The juvy they put him in was far away from home. Too far for anyone to visit and he only saw his mama one time in four years. By the time they got home most everyone had left accept for a few cousins and an old friend. But guess this, I went to a cousins house that same night. I visited for awhile and then started walking home. In the apartment complex my cousin stay in they have guards after 10:00 and they stopped me. I explain to them I was visiting my cousin but I’m on way way home. The next thing I know I’m in the back seat of a patrol car for tresspassing ( walking while black). I had to stay in this jail for two days, and I had only been out of juvy for less than 24 hours when this happened and I’m back in jail again. My mom came and got me out.
I went to the court for the case and guess who I ending up seeing? I saw the lawyer who was my lawyer four years ago, only he was now a judge. He didn’t know who I was at first.
He asked me, “what’s your name,” and I told him.
He asked me, “who’s your mother?” I told him. It hit him then who I was, so he said,
“How have you been doing?”
“I just got home from TYC, ” I told him. ( Texas Youth Comission} He looked at me crazy.
I said to him, “You lied to me. Why did I have to lose my life?” I continued. “I was sixteen going on seventeen and I was sent to TYC. I was told I had to do nine months?” It was hard to keep my voice even. “I was lied to by the court. I ended up having to stay there four years.” The charges were dropped and I got to go home.
But really, no joking, he knows the chances are of getting picked up and taken to jail for doing nothing wrong at all. You are guilty of doing nothing. People try to say this country was becoming less racist. That’s a joke. You only have to be black to know that. Nobody admits to be being racist. They want other people to think they’re fair to everyone, no matter what the color of their skin was. The problem is that it’s actually becoming worse, not better, at the same time the media tries to make you believe other wise. Black people aren’t so stupid. They know and feel the racism every day. But it can also be racism by blacks against whites, but that comes from being mistreated so much. Blacks are fighting back and the whites don’t like it. Blacks can be racist, too. They’re pissed.
OK, not everyone is racist, but when something is ground into you when you are young, just wanting to not be racist doesn’t mean you aren’t. It’s like whatever your religion is. People think the truth is what you were told over and over. It’s not so easy to think different from how you were raised. If your parents talked bad about blacks when you’re growing up then that is what you’re going to think, too. He laid his head back, waiting for food to arrive and he started thinking about how different it was for black people than it was for white people.
Let’s say you’re a middle aged white woman walking down a street and a black teenager, wearing a hoodie, with it pulled up over his head, is walking toward you coming the opposite way. No matter how much you think you aren’t racist, the first thought shooting through your head is fear. You can’t help yourself.
“Is he going to try to rob me? Maybe try to grab my purse and run?” You start to get concerned because throughout your life, the media, movies and TV has mostly shown you that black people aren’t as smart as white people. It’s not their fault, so they do more drugs. And, they kill more people, and they’re lazy. They just keep having more kids so the government will give them more free things other people have to work for, like food and housing and even medical care. They even teach their own kids to do the same thing. She knew it was true.
She watched Fox news. They blame black people for everything and said because of them we need to have that stop and frisk law. Fox also said that black people were the cause of the financial meltdown the country was going through.(1) She knew Fox news wouldn’t lie about things like this. It was the only News station she knew she could trust to tell the truth. So she knew she could be the next victim. He could be out to hurt me.
Rapidly, you think what to do.
“Should I cross the street and just make it look casual, like I was meaning to cross the street, anyway?” Your mind works fast searching for the right thing to do.
You have a little gun in your purse. You bought it couple months ago. You didn’t tell anyone. It wasn’t their business to know that. You went to a store in another town so no one would recognize you. One couldn’t be too careful, you know. You have to protect yourself from all those other crazy people out there who want to hurt you. You have to be prepared. It was just common sense in this day and age. She even looked up a place where there was a gun range so someone could show her how to shoot it – if she needed to, never thinking that it wouldn’t do any good unless the person she wanted to shoot agreed to stand still long enough so she could try to aim. She’d probably shoot off her own foot. But you aren’t thinking any of that. You’re just frightened.
“I’m not so young anymore.” She told herself. “I don’t have a man to protect me.”
“I wouldn’t be able to fight him off if he attacked me.” She had heard stories about people who got attacked just walking down the street minding their own business. You don’t know who might be carrying a gun.
Everyone is so scared everyone else has a gun, so they bought one, too. A lady has the right to protect yourself, you know. All those crazy people carrying guns, not realizing that you’re actually one of these crazy people yourself. You casually slip your hand into your purse, just in case.
He’s about ten seconds away now. Your heart starts to beat a little faster. What to do? What to do? There’s a door to the left. Good. You can pretend you’re going there. You turn toward it, making it look like it was your destination. You pretend you’re searching for your keys, but your hand is really around the gun, slipping your finger to take the safety to take it off, ready to pull your hand out if he starts to step in your direction. God, he might even want to try to rape her!
You don’t look at him again, pretending everything is okay. You try to steal a look at him through the side of your eye, trying to make like you aren’t looking right at him just in case he sees you doing it. You want to make him believe you aren’t a scared racist, but that is exactly what you are, whether you want to believe it or not.
When you reach for the door handle, this scary looking black teenager just continues to walk on by without even looking at you, or even wondering what you’re thinking.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone to search through his Itunes so he could play one. Reaching further into his pocket, he felt for his headphones so he could plug them into his phone. He was in the mood for a little Bob Marley, wanting to hear some tunes off the “Songs From Freedom” album. He sang about the down trodden people in all the corners of the world and about passing the love around.
Later that day, that same woman would be calling her friends and telling them about the close call she had with this black man she thinks wanted to hurt her, but she was ready. Now she tells them about the gun and how she had her finger of the trigger and was about to pull it out when something frightened him away.
“Oh!” They all say. You were so lucky you got away. You must have been so scared!
“Did you call the police?” one woman asked. “No.” she replied. “Since he didn’t get a chance to hurt me, I didn’t want the people in the neighborhood to have the cops arrive and wanting to talk to everyone. They would have kept me there, too, and I had other things to do.” she added.
“That’s using common sense, but I bet you could have gotten on TV, though. Then everyone could’ve seen you.”
“I never thought of that.” You always think of things like when it was too late. ” Oh well. I’m just glad I got away.” The conversation ended.
Let’s go back for a minute to the would be almost criminal this woman was so glad she had the insight and courage to get away from. What he was really doing was walking to his gramma’s house. He was a good kid, always came when she asked. They’d been real close every since he was little. Did good in school. He wanted to be an architect and was going to start college in the Fall. He was a bright spot in her life, the only grandchild that lived close to her. All the others moved away. She called him because she needed him to help get some boxes down in the garage. He told her she wasn’t to climb her little ladder anymore, and to call him if she ever needed any help. She’s 82. She already fell one time and he was worried she might fall again and get really hurt this time. He loves his gramma. So when she called a little while ago asking him if he could come over and help her, he grabbed his sweatshirt and phone and started walking over to her house. It was only a few blocks away. The weather was nice. He could even stop at the little store along the way and grab a pack of smokes at the same time. He wasn’t even paying attention to the lady he passed. He reached into his pocket to get his phone out, searching for the tunes he wanted to play.
But someone else was watching. The lady across the street who was peering through her lace curtains. This kid looked real suspicious, she decided. What was he up to? It sure looked like was pulling a gun out of his pocket. She didn’t have her faraway glasses on, but that black thing sure did look like a gun to her. She thought he might be trying to rob that lady walking down the street. She called 911.
“911, is this an emergency? If not please, call the regular number for the station.” the woman started to say on the other end of the line.
“Yes.” She said a little breathlessly. There’s this teenager outside and it looks like wanting to to rob someone. He kept looking at this lady and she got away from him. He pulled a gun out of his pocket”
“You saw this gun ma’am?” she was asked. “Yes. With my own eyes”
“Let me have your location ma’am and what direction he’s heading in. And I’ll send a police car right away” the 911 operator told her. She gave her the address and cross street.
“Thank goodness. Hurry. I just saw him heading into this convenience store down the block. An old man works there and he might get hurt. This man might try to rob him.”
“Stay inside your house. They’ll be there in a few minutes,” and hung up.
Two minutes later, two cop cars come speeding down the street. They pull up in front of the convenience store, puled out their guns and started to walk toward the store. When one of them gets inside the store, the owner of the store saw them and had a sprised look on his face. There was a teenage black boy with his hand out toward the old man behind the counter. It appeared that he was demanding money. He pulled something black out of his pocket.
The cop stood in the doorway and yelled “Freeze and drop the gun!” The boy was confused. Was he talkling to him? He didn’t have a gun. He turned around, with his black cell phone still in his hand. The cop shot him 3 times in the gut because he didn’t drop the gun. He didn’t drop his cell phone. The money for the cigarettes was on the counter.
“Shit”, the cop said. We’re going to have to make this look legit he said quietly when he walked over to the other cop. We have to make people believe he was committing a crime. Not once did either of them go over to the boy and see if he could be saved. They justlet him lay there and bleed to death. If they had called immediately for help he might have been saved. But the cop couldn’t have this come back on him. He was just doing his job.
“Hey, old man”, he asked the man behind the counter.”Was he threatening to you in any way? Was he trying to steal the cigarettes or make you give him money in your register?”
“No”, he’s been in here before. “Polite young man. You killed him!” He was visibly shaken.
“Woman down the street said he tried to rob a woman and thought he was coming in here to rob you next. He tried to grab her bag.” The old man didn’t know what to think.
The two women involved got their fifteen minutes of fame talking to police officers, and news papers reporters and even had a little spot on the evening news. The woman behind the curtain told them it certainly looked like a gun in his hand and tried to grab the woman’s purse and she fought him off. She could see how scared the woman was. She was sure he was going to rob the store. She did a good thing reporting it to the police and get one more of those black thugs off the street. With each telling the story got a little bigger.
Later when the woman walking down the street told her story it got a little grander with each telling. That night, she went to church and talked to all her lady friends at the pot luck dinner. By then she had a big audience who wanted to hear every word she had to say. Everyone knew she was a good Christian and she would never lie. She was a hero who had barely escaped death.
They all said, “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! He protects those who have faith in him!” they cried. “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”
“Yes, that was surely it. Praise the Lord.” She told them he was really a mean looking kid. He had a scowl on his face. When he passed her on the street she said he looked at her really ugly and said, “What’re you lookin’ at bitch.”
Not one person suggested they should pray for the boy or his family. No one thought of, or even knew of his grandmother who was grieving for the loss of her grandson, for the loss of the life of one more black boy who had his life taken away by an overzealous cop.
The police had their story down flat. They reported they had entered the store fully expecting him to have a gun and when he didn’t drop it and turn around, they had no choice but to get ready to shoot. So when he did finally turn, still holding his black cell phone, they shot him three times in the gut before he could shoot them. They were just doing their job. Protecting the people. Of curse, they were found innocent of any wrong doing
The black community now had more reason to be angrier at the injustice and racism.
Bang! The wheels of the food cart rammed the steel door! “Cummings! Food!” the guard yelled. Jamie woke up with a start and sat up, startled. He’d fallen asleep. He heard the lock turning in his food slot and the door opened up and a tray slid through. He didn’t even bother to look to see what it was. He knew it was a little carton of milk, a biscuit and a spoon of peanut butter. When he gets out of here he never wants to see another spoon of peanut butter for the rest of his life.
(1) links to the Fox News Youtube sites saying these very things
(2) link to Youtube site