A snapshot of my older brother and I taken moments after he received his Bachelors Degree in Sports Management from Syracuse University. A young African American doing well in society and has a good head on his shoulders.
However, these individuals are never documented about in the media.
Instead you have cases such as these.
Thomas Bishop has recently been charged with murder after an attempted robbery on the city’s south side.
The problem with cases like these is that people, like Bishop, are portrayed as the generalization of the character for all African American males. When you turn on your television, pick up a newspaper, or listen to your radio we are portrayed as murderers, thieves, and rapists.
Well, newsflash. We are all not Thomas Bishops.
The media has not only negatively exploited the image of an African American male, but they have created this war-like relationship between Caucasian police and men of color.
Some people may still view officers as being our “protectors”, however to the eyes of a man of color these people are the enemy.
We are well aware of what occurred between Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman last year, and most recently the Michael Brown Ferguson case. But, what may not be publicized is how this repetitive occurrence is manifesting into people’s everyday lives.
I mentioned my brother previously with our image taken at his graduation in May. The reasoning behind my usage of this snapshot is to compare who my brother really is to what’s he been profiled as recently.
For the past couple of months my brother has been pulled over numerous times from the police in our neighborhood. Dropping his friend off at home, my brother was believed to be in the middle of making a drug deal. The only reason the cops didn’t proceed with investigation was because my brother’s friend mother just so happened to be coming home at the same time, and was able to confirm these boys weren’t drug dealers. Most recently, my mother had to pick up my older brother, as well as my younger brother who was being taken to soccer practice, from the police station and realizes that the truck my brother was driving was impounded. It’s gotten to a point where my brother doesn’t even want to drive anymore because he knows the chances of him getting pulled over are so high.
My household is not the only example of this vicious relationship between police and men of color existing. I participated in a “hands up, don’t shoot” centered march earlier in the school year. I heard multiple people voice their opinions of what they were tired of with regards to the society we are living in. There were so many recollections coming from students of color saying things like, “I’m tired of being watched while I’m shopping in a store”, or “I’m tired of having to constantly turn around when walking down the street because of the fear of police.”
It’s honestly heartbreaking. Heartbreaking that so many young people of color, including my brothers and I, are living in fear daily.
I could put all my disgust towards the media and these racist police, but I start to think of that muscular empathy mentioned in, “A Muscular Empathy” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates discusses the only way we can begin to understand the problems our society faces, is to embody this muscular empathy. “If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this–You are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?”, says Coates.
I believe that the mindset Coates is discussing is exactly the way all of us should be thinking with regards to the recent tragedies our country has faced. Saying things would be different if we were Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, Michael Brown, or Darren Wilson would not only be a false statement but also wouldn’t allow our country to move forward. Together as a country we really need to start looking at those “Why’s”.
We can start our examination right here in the city of Chicago.
I believe our high crime rate is rooted from the chaos Rahm Emanuel created with our education system. On June 14th, CPS made the decision to close 49 schools, which is the largest single school closure in US history. In a TruthOut article titled, “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s War on Teachers and Children”, David Bacon discusses the impact that Emanuel’s decision has on the African American and Latino communities. Bacon states, “Out of the 54 schools proposed for closure in 2013, 88 percent are overwhelmingly attended by African-American students, and only 125 of the 16,119 total students – 0.78 percent – are white. The racial and economic polarization of Chicago was visible in the announced closure of George Manierre Elementary, where the surrounding neighborhood includes both the townhouses of one of the city’s poorest public housing projects and burgeoning condominiums worth millions of dollars.”
If 88 percent of African American students are not in school, where are they?
On the streets.
Now let’s turn our heads and look at the job market for teens.
We as a community need to examine what happen to these young men of color when job opportunities aren’t available. According to a Chicago Sun-Times article by Nausheen Husain, last updated June 9th 2013, “Numbers from Chicago’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the number of teens who can’t find work has been increasing since 2000, and went up in the following years as the country’s economy fell in to the recession. In 2006, 13 percent of Chicago’s teens were unemployed. In 2010, that percentage was doubled, according to the most recent data available for the city.” The article goes on to state that this tough job market could directly correlate with the violence and crime throughout Chicago. “Though there isn’t direct data to prove the statement ‘Nothing stops a bullet like a job,’ I’ve certainly heard a lot of anecdotal evidence,” said Roseanna Ander, executive director of University of Chicago’s Crime Lab. Ander is absolutely correct.
Once again I ask a question
If 26 percent of teens are unemployed where are they?
On the streets.
The reason I bring up Chicago’s education system and job market is because I believe that the only way we’re going to see change in the world is to start examining our environment. Instead of judging these teens for their reckless behavior, start understanding why this behavior exists. What I learned from being apart of my Discover Chicago class at DePaul University is that there is a lot that the naked eye does not see. After walking the streets of neighborhood like Pilsen, Uptown, and Englewood I begun to understand the circumstances of these individuals and why they choose to live their lives a certain way
I learned that not all gang member want to be in gangs, but they have to in order to live.
I learned that not every one in Englewood is a criminal, and that some are striving for greatness.
Once we begin to examine our environment then we can realize what we can fix. I believe what’s happening now in America is that are people are not examining, and are trying to change things that are impossible to change.
We can’t change the police.
I believe this was further emphasized in “Reparations for Ferguson”.
“The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary”, says Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Coates brings up a matter few have been able to see.
We are never going to be able to change police. No matter what the situation, police have reacted the same way with crimes involving men of color, for years.
We as a nation can’t change that.
However, we can work at repairing our education system and job markets so teens are getting proper schooling and financial support, and are moving off the streets.
Have rallies for that!
What I have learned is that life is not easy for an African American male, and it will never be. All eyes are constantly glued on us awaiting for there to be some type of failure or violence. The media will continue to play less stories like my brother, and more stories like Thomas Bishop. Those aspects we have no control over. So, together as a nation we need to utilize the few things we do have control over and start paving ways for young men of color to prove our criticizers wrong.
The journey to bring racism out of our world will not be an easy road. However it is not impossible.