I’ve never put on a hood and dressed up like a ghost. I’ve never been to a white power rally. I don’t tell ‘those’ kinds of jokes. Even better, when I hear them, I don’t keep quiet, but I admonish the jokester. I’ve never given preferential treatment to any of my students. I’ve had black […]
I’ve never put on a hood and dressed up like a ghost. I’ve never been to a white power rally. I don’t tell ‘those’ kinds of jokes. Even better, when I hear them, I don’t keep quiet, but I admonish the jokester. I’ve never given preferential treatment to any of my students.
I’ve had black friends. For God’s sake, my wife is black, and so are my kids.
I’ve got more ‘not-a-racist’ merit badges than most white people could ever hope to display.
Still a racist.
And it took the death of an innocent man to show me why: Philando Castile.
Like a lot of white people, I kept seeing some common denominator in all the people who’d been killed by police in recent years: they all did something to ‘ask for it.’
Tamir Rice. Twelve-year-old boy, pointed his BB gun at the cops. Allegedly, he’d previously removed the bright red thingy that was supposed to let people know it wasn’t a real gun.
Mike Brown. The guy was a thug; he’d just come from robbing a convenience store; I saw the footage where he’d roughed up that clerk.
Alton Sterling. Another thug who DID have a gun he wasn’t even supposed to have. He must have went for it, right?
(Clicks the car door to make sure it’s locked)
And Philando Castile, now. Here was a savage thug on his way home from the grocery store buying blunts, 40s and fried chicken, with his ho by his side and a baby in the back seat. He had a record, too, that always helps, and he was just a cafeteria worker – a typical, menial, low-wage job befitting a black-man.
AND he was packing a weapon.
And his woman’s name was “Diamond.” Obviously a stripper – those black men, always dating strippers and carrying guns around, no wonder he was shot!
Do you see how my white, racist mentality works?
There comes a point where even a white person has to look at the facts and recognize we’re not just playing devil’s advocate here – but perpetuating a stereotype that has been sold to us throughout our lives: a stereotype we’ve bought with an extended warranty.
The black man is a thug. He’s a monster. He’s a gangster. He’s DaNgErOuS. He’s not a human being, but a lesser form. He’s promiscuous and adulterous. He’s a drug addict. He abandons his kids. He’s abusive and violent. He’s uncivilized. Uneducated. Unintelligent. He’s the worst humanity has to offer, and for good reason: so that us white people can shine brighter by comparison. We can all sleep comfortably, now, knowing we’re not like him.
It’s in the rapper (which isn’t real, civilized music, btw) – that thuglife middle finger to the Lord gripping his balls tough guy smoking an ounce to this persona we see in every media known to human-kind. He can’t even talk straight – always slang and ebonics and cursing, and his speech is slurred so bad you can’t understand it.
That’s what sells, isn’t it? What self-respecting white person would buy rap music by an articulate, well-spoken black man who talked about real life? NO!!! We don’t want that shit; we need the thug; give us the thug. We need the black man to be a thug, else what would that make us?
“But,” you say, “they’re the ones making that music!”
To sell to a white audience. What many black people fail to realize, is that for a lot of white people, the whole world is white. At my high school, for example, there was 1 (uno, 一, واحد, ஒரு) black guy the whole four years I was there. So for many of us, this image we get in the media is the only image we have.
So, you’re an artist, struggling to make ends meet, trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, and some rich producer promises to make you successful: all you have to do is put on this gangster costume.
“Sellout!” you say.
Name one successful artist who isn’t?
Shit, man, it’s fun to be a gangster – I remember when I was six years old, I had a black, pen-stripe suit with a violin case. I was dangerous, man! So of course, as a struggling artist, you’re going to dance like a good little monkey. There’s a market for you: white people around the world are willing to buy this image of the black man as some monstrous thug, and there are always a few artists willing to sell it.
But let us pretend, for one minute, that he’s not a “black man,” but a man. Let us pretend he’s a human being.
Mike Brown. An eighteen-year-old kid acting stupid. God knows I did some stupid things when I was eighteen – stupid enough I could have easily entered the pipeline straight from school had I been a different color. No, Mike Brown deserved a chance to grow up and learn.
Alton Sterling. Watch those videos again, only peel away that stereotype. Alton Sterling was executed. There’s a word for this one: extra-judicial killing. It’s where the cops decide this guy is so bad he doesn’t deserve a fair trial. This we would expect to see in a third-world country.
Tamir Rice. Dude, he was twelve fucking years old. These cops with their badges and real-life guns were so terrified of this thug black man that they couldn’t talk some sense into a child?
Trayvon Martin. Just a kid walking home from getting himself a drink. A non-alcoholic drink, make a note of that. George was scared of him – black thug in his neighborhood like that. Trayvon committed the audacious: stood up to a bully and rightly asked: “who the hell are you?” And the jury… Well, they understood, George with a gun was rightly scared out of his wits, after all, this WAS a black man.
And we come to Philando Castile. Thirty-two years old, driving home from the grocery store with his girlfriend.
I went to the grocery store with my girlfriend when I was thirty-two.
He had a long list of traffic violations.
I have a long list of traffic violations.
He worked at a school.
I work at a school.
Liked to sneak extra graham crackers to the kids.
I have totally done that.
Owned a gun.
I’ve owned a gun.
He wore glasses.
I wear glasses!
My white-racist mind can’t take it… there has to be something… something I can pin on this one… he had a weapon.
Two white men walk down the street with assault rifles on their backs. The police stop them, saying “Oh, you guys are just exercising your 2nd amendment rights, are you? Carry on, then!” One black man driving home from the grocery store, pulled over for a broken tail light that wasn’t even broken. Shot. And Diamond held at gunpoint so she can’t even triage the guy while he bleeds out. Slipping in and out of consciousness while this cop, so terrified this monster black man is going to spring back to life and breathe fire on him that he can’t even put the gun down but, realizing he’s on live stream, does what any self-respecting white person would do in that situation: “It’s his fault!”
Put down the gun and tourniquet the thug man!
It makes me sick. I can’t breathe.
Michael Patrick Lewis is a teacher, father, and best-selling author of Edge of God. When he’s not writing, he’s thinking about what to write next.