Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All Lives Matter: Eric Garner Michael Brown

Portrait of Eric Garner
Eric Garner
Portrait of Michael Brown
Michael Brown

There are many things I would like to talk about here, and every week I debate about what should come next.  But for the last couple of weeks I have been thinking about the decisions that came down in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, and the reaction of the citizens and the media that has followed.

This summer when I heard about the death of Micheal Brown I was deeply moved, as I was when I heard about the death of Trayvon Martin.  As a father I find myself very empathetic when I hear about these incidents taking the lives of young black men.  It tends to hit me on multiple levels, one as a father with a young biracial child growing up in the world, and also as a black man that survived my youth somehow without succumbing to what seem like the many pitfalls and blind alleys that threaten to take my life.

As an artist I very rarely speak so directly to how I feel about this issue on the internet, thus setting myself up to be ridiculed and have my arguments torn to pieces for not following an airtight form of logic, but this blog is not about that.  This blog is a place where I am allowing myself to speak directly to whoever will listen and risk having my lack of knowledge in certain area be exposed, in exchange for an opportunity to speak clearly and directly to people about the things I think are important.

Last week when I heard about the verdict in the Eric Garner case I went on the internet and did a little research and in a short time ran into the video of the incident between Eric Garner and the Staten Island police officers.  Those of your that think Eric Garner got what he deserved or that the police were just doing there job should take two minutes and watch the video.  After watching the video I felt terrible, totally disempowered, sad and disheartened.  It was just such a sad reminder of just how much race relations in this country have not changed.  If you are a tall black man who is not completely apologetic about it, you are going to be seen as a threat, and your life can actually be in jeoporday as a result.  It was never told to me explicitely by anyone, but I have learned when I am confronted by the police if I want to leave that interaction not in handcuffs or worse I better start kissing ass, apologizing for how wrong I am, keeping my head down.  It is definitely not something I am proud about or anything I think about much or do consciously, it is just one of those coping mechinisms I pick up early on (for better or worse).

If Eric Garner or Michael Brown did anything wrong it is that they had the nerve to talk back, to resist, to stand up for their own rigths as human beings regardless of their race.  Unfortunately in this country if we are going to be realistic about the actual situation we have to admit that there is no "regardless of their race" race unfortunately matters in the country along with gender and class.  The rules in the country are different depending on your age, race, gender, ethnicity and economic status and it is the source of all our problems.

student protest, PSU library, die in
Student Protest in the PSU library

But, on a positive note I have been very encouraged by the young people all over this country who are standing up and speaking out about this situation.  The kids here at Penn State, Temple, UC Berkeley, folks in NYC, Washington DC, Chicago and everywhere else.  Folks are taking to the streets and speaking out against the powers that be, letting them know we are not OK with the way we are being treated and we expect our politicians to do something about it.

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