“He was the leader of the pack for my [children]. He was meek. He was humble. He was tall. He was a man. He loved dogs. He loved people. He loved anything that had life in it; a plant. And that’s why I can’t understand why that happened to my child.” – Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s Mother
I try to shake away this sinking feeling, but I am far from surprised. I know the answer. Michael Brown was an easy target. Michael Brown was Black.
Blackness has been constructed in a way that is synonymous with dirt, impurity, and evil. We are made to feel ashamed not only of our physical characteristics, but of our very being. We are ill-represented. We are hated.
Black is the opposite of white. Black must be promulgated as bad, not only by those who only view blackness in passing, but by those who carry the colour themselves. In a white supremacist society, this systematic brainwashing is one of the most effective ways to maintain subordination.
If society is able to make me hate myself, if society is able to make me ashamed of something I have no control over, of something that I was born with, of something that my father had, my grandmother had, my grandfather had, my great-grandmother had, then that, my friend, is power.
By saying that Mike Brown was Black, some may accuse me of looking past the facts, seeing only colour. Darren Wilson could not unsee colour. I cannot unsee colour. You have trained me from birth to see colour. You have trained me to see my own colour and to be ashamed of it. You have taught me to mould myself into something I will never truly become. I will never be white. I can never be white. I can change myself, contort myself, distort myself, even eventually destroy myself, but I am and always will be Black.
The distortion of facts is common to any case. However the death of an unarmed Black teenager is plain fact. A cop with a gun, a cop who refused to carry a taser has openly shown no remorse since Mike Brown’s death is as clear as day.
There are thousands of Mike Browns. There are millions. How can we do them the disservice of not looking at their colour when the very cops who have sworn to protect them are trained to see colour? How dare we claim to not see colour, to not see race?
Race was constructed to create a hierarchy; a hierarchy based on colour. Mike Brown did not simply become Black when he was murdered. He did not become Black when social media took up the case of his death. Mike Brown was born Black. From the moment of his birth he was taught to be wary of a system that had sworn to protect him. He was taught that one step out of bounds would lead to his destruction. This is what he was taught. This is what we all are taught. Blackness is a threat, therefore blackness becomes a target.
I see my colour. I love my colour. It is a part of me, so ingrained in me I could not imagine life without it. It shapes how people see me, what people say to me, how they relate to me. I understand that, but I will never be ashamed of it. Never again. I will take pride in the skin of my ancestors. I am a person deserving of humanity. Mike Brown was a person deserving of humanity. We are human beings.
What’s the difference between a white person and a Black person when they argue about race? The white person never has to prove that they are deserving of humanity; the Black person always does.
This Friday, November 28th, at 5:00pm, come keep vigil in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and Black communities across the world. Come listen to Black people speak about their oppression, about their fears, about their successes, about their hopes. Give them a chance to speak openly, and give yourself the chance to truly listen. We are not irrational. We know our oppression. We love ourselves and now it is time for us to speak.