“When my beautiful black boy grows from cute to a threat”

The news has been disheartening, to put it mildly, in the last few weeks, from the release of the video recording of Ahmaud Arbery being chased while jogging by two white men and shot to death to Christian Cooper, birding in the Ramble and having a white woman call 911, threatening to falsely report that “an African American man is threatening me and my dog,” to the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of a group of cops, one of whom put his knee down on Floyd’s neck, which eventually killed him. All of these incidents were caught on video. Two of them led to murders. One of them went without arrest or indictment for two months due to unclear circumstances (I suppose black deaths don’t matter unless the public knows about them to those in charge in Georgia?).

I read this story by a black woman about raising a black son today. The title of it is “When my beautiful black boy grows from cute to a threat.” She talks about all the compliments she gets about how cute her little son is, but she worries for his future when one day, he will have to watch his back literally everywhere he goes because his body will be seen as a weapon simply because of his skin color. I cried reading about her constant worry about her son. Would he come home? If he didn’t call, could he possibly have been shot and killed for zero wrongdoing other than being born with darker skin? A black colleague of mine, who did his undergrad work at Harvard, talked about the need he had to wear his Harvard sweatshirt in neighborhoods that were predominantly white or of a higher socioeconomic class because he felt that this would ensure that people would see him as “legitimate,” as “not one of those” black people who could potentially be a threat.

My stomach has churned and my eyes have burned this week, watching these horrific videos, remembering that somehow, we are actually in the year 2020, but it certainly does not feel like much progress has been made. Every day feels like a dystopia, with the terrible leadership of this country to COVID-19 to racism being a consistent, persistent threat that so many people, even some people of color, refuse to admit is an issue. How can anyone possibly think we are in a post-racist world, particularly with a president who outright calls black protestors “thugs,” which is essentially a code word for “(bad) black person”?

It doesn’t seem to matter what people of color do, but they are always seen as doing wrong. Protest by kneeling? Then you can always leave this country. Protest by going in the streets? They’re thugs. This is what President Dipshit has said. Yet somehow, when white people do it, whether it’s after major sporting events, at state capitols to protest wearing masks with their machine guns in hand, they need to be listened to and empathized with. What kind of a “leader” do we have here?

I didn’t think this period could get worse, but I feel like we are at our lowest of lows now. I can’t stop thinking about all the injustices that people of color face and the sheer ignorance and stupidity of so many in this country who either actively or passively allow it continue happening. Silence benefits the oppressor. You are either actively against racism, or you are for it.

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