Commonplace (#Ferguson)

…America’s black-on-black crime problem isn’t going to be solved by black boys pulling up their pants or refraining from using the N-word or any of the other condescending solutions cable news pundits have eagerly urged upon the monolithic ‘black community’ of their feverish imagining. Our justice system can prevent blacks killing blacks in the same way that it prevents whites killing whites: by investing time, money, and police resources into proving that black people are valuable to our society—by extending material and cultural support for their lives while aggressively investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of their violent deaths. Unfortunately, such a commitment is expensive and arduous, and it requires white Americans to admit that, in some ways, black-on-black crime is actually an outgrowth of historic white-on-black crime. It’s much easier to watch television’s hundredth Natalee Holloway special and tolerate cops who write off black murder victims as subhumans.”

Cord Jefferson, in a book review

“The reality, as we stand here looking back at another dead unarmed black male who posed enough of a threat to merit a lethal response, is that if the George Zimmermans and Darren Wilsons of the world are justified in doing what they did then our legal system has decided as a whole that being a black male is probable cause. You are legally a threat by virtue of the fact that you are a black male. Nothing you do or wear or say matters. The probable cause is that you exist; you are black and male and anyone who shoots you only needs to point out those two facts because it is universally recognized that black males are threatening.

The legal system and law enforcement are structured in a way that allows me, a white male, to justify doing violence to you up to and including taking your life simply by claiming that I felt threatened by you. In fact, my legal footing is stronger if I do take your life since that eliminates the potential of a conflicting version of events being presented in court (not that there is likely to be a trial, nor that your version of events would be considered credible). The logic, such as it is, is tautological; I felt threatened because you are a black male, because black males are threatening. Every one is a mugging, shooting, sexual assault, or burglary waiting to happen. I don’t need to justify it because everyone (within the white power structure, of course) knows that that’s just How You People Are.

My right to respond to feeling threatened in whatever manner I choose is worth more in the eyes of the law than black men’s lives. If you and I have some sort of altercation, I can wait until it’s over and you are 100-some feet away and then shoot you. I can shoot you even if you are running away because you are still a threat because you are always a threat. You are never not a threat when in public. Your best course of action might be to stay at home and indoors, although that will protect you only from vigilantes. Law enforcement is another story.”

Gin & Tacos, “An Open Letter to Black Men

“Since their son was murdered in August, Mike Brown’s parents have used words. They have released statements conveying their grief and their desire for peace, for calm, for change. After learning that there would be no justice for their son, they said, ‘We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.’

There is so much grief and hope in that statement. I don’t understand how they can be so full of grace. I don’t understand how they can believe that this system that is so utterly corrupt, can be fixed. But if they can believe in change, surely I must at least try.”

Roxane Gay, “Only Words

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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