I’ve been silent on this issue. Even though it’s consumed my thoughts, I haven’t spoken at all about it on social media. Still trying to process. Then I read my girlfriend’s insane Facebook banter (my bad, I know) with some kids from her home town, and have been compelled to write a 2,500 word explanation of why I strongly disagree with their perspective on race in America. And now I feel better…
This is Samantha’s (my lady) status update:
My heart goes out to the people in Ferguson, and Michael Brown’s family. How terrifying to be the mother of a black youth and know that he is always presumed guilty simply by the color of his skin. I am disgusted that we STILL live in a country where black people are not protected, but persecuted by law enforcement. Why hasn’t police officer Darren Wilson been arrested?!
This is so insulting and fucking unjust. #blacklivesmatter
Then I see all this…pushback, and I get pissed. About to respond and I realize it’s too deep. So then, the rebuttal turned into a letter. See below.
Welp, now you’ve done it! I warned you! I am very proud of you love, for using this most popular, ubiquitous platform to freely express your ideas. You do know that our future together - God willing - implies a world in which you would not just sympathize with those mothers, but you would actually be that mother. So yes, this is part of the reality that you choose when you consider a black partner in America.You’re braver than I, because, to date, I’ve been absolutely silent on the matter because I fear engagements like this. But, alas….A letter to my baby, Officer Mike, Ryan and some girl named, Tori.
First post up: a Santa Barbara police officer, Mike.
Officer Mike: He was wanted for a strong arm robbery that he committed just hours earlier. The crime was caught on camera and police were looking for him. What is more disgusting is the fact that mass media uses race to promote stories for ratings without fully disclosing the details to the public. We can not trust what mass media says, every individual must take it upon his or her self to educate themselves on “big stories”. What has not been covered are the police officer’s who die in the line of duty every 53 hours in this country.
Officer Mike, let’s start on good terms. We share a mutual and healthy distrust for the media. So there’s some common ground! Here’s where things get tricky: The officer who filled out the police report and the Police Chief have their stories mixed up. As you say, “police were looking for him”, but as Chief Jackson said, the “strong-arm robbery” and the murder were unrelated. Actually, here’s what he said exactly:
“This robbery does not relate to the initial contact between the officer and Michael Brown.” “It had nothing to do with the stop.” Now he might just be saying that because it’s a press conference and he is realizing in real time that this story has more holes than Mike Brown himself. Or maybe a little tension over realizing the outlandish diversion of releasing a video of “the crime” was making him look like an ass to pretty much everyone alive still having a hard time understanding the link between this release of footage and a murder. Say it with me, Mike, MUR-DER.
I understand how you may be confused about the details. Maybe you heard that from one of the mainstream news channels you despise. Cuz like I said, Officer Mike, I agree with you about the media. They use race to drive interest and ratings. It’s sorta like when people say things that are not true to validate their thinking. It can be really frustrating when people manipulate the truth that way. But I don’t think the media made this about race. This actually is about race. And when the (mostly) black residents of Ferguson took to the streets on this, they were the ones who decided it was about race. And they were probably even more sensitive about this whole “race thing” since this was the fourth unarmed black person killed in our country by a police officer since this month started. The most recent one from last week, was when Eric Garner was choked to death in New York. That officer is still collecting a paycheck. That video was picked up by mass media, but it was made by new media - our cell phones. An eyewitness getting firsthand footage of a police officer killing an unarmed black man. Now that’s the media I trust.
So, Officer Mike, as a black person, let me tellya, we actually do think it’s about race and we’re all kinda pissed about how this summer has gone for us. We’re not thrilled that our tax-subsidized public officials are killing unarmed members in our community. We don’t need you or the media to tell us it’s about race. We have already made our minds up, and so have millions of people of all colors protesting last week’s events.
And Tori chimed in: I’m sure if Michael Brown was white, the results would have still ended the same. You can’t punch a cop in the face or especially wrestle a cop for his or her gun without figuring that you are going to be shot and possibly killed. Michael Brown was clearly not innocent. He wasn’t just walking on the side walk, minding his own business and randomly got shot by a white cop for being black. If that were the case, I would agree with it being a race issue. The facts are he was a wanted thieve/thug and it was his actions when getting confront by a the cop and his stupidity that got him killed. The cop wasn’t racist, he was doing his job. Im sure if the police officer was black he would have reacted the same and would have shot Michael Brown too reguardless of Brown’s race. People are turning this into a race issue but really it has nothing to do with it. It’s completely ridiculous! I’m so over the race card in this particular situation.
Here’s what else we agree on. Michael Brown broke the law. I mean, I think he did because they’ve got some family attorneys who have said the grainy video looks like Michael Brown. But I actually think it’s him and I actually think he was acting out as a “thug” as Tori said, which coincidentally happens to be the code word for black people that is not social media acceptable, but acceptable in the company of your own friends. Tori, you know the one I’m talking about, right? We have to be careful with our words, friends. For instance, another way to say, “strong-armed” robbery is “unarmed.” Feels different, right?
But, semantics. We all think Michael Brown “strong-armed” robbed the clerk for blunts, the thing is, the kid is 18 years old. Even under the guise of Statute of Limitations, no way I’m telling you all of the stupid shit I did when I was 18. I never strong-arm robbed anyone, but suffice to say, by these Ferguson standards, I definitely did some things that would’ve gotten me killed there. How bout you, officer? Any poor decisions you’d like to have back from your teenage years?
Samantha: Mike, I understand that you, as a police officer feel obligated to defend the actions of another police officer. Not all police officers are created equal. But let’s get some of the fundamental facts straight. At time of his confrontation with police, he was unarmed, witnesses even say that he had his hand in the air saying “don’t shoot”. And the crime that he may have committed was stealing less than $50 worth of tobacco! Does fatally shooting an 18 year old with at least six rounds on ammunition over some petty theft seem fair to you?
Mike: When the crime he committed was a violent act, it is a felony, a high risk stop for officer’s. Stealing $50 worth of tobacco in the scheme of things, not a big deal, threatening the clerk saying he has a gun and choking him, that’s a bigger deal. I do not know exactly what happened on that stop and we may never know. But the fact that there is video proof of Mr. Brown committed a violent felony crime proves he has a violent criminal nature. I am not saying anyone deserves to die, or that he “had it coming”, but he made a choice hours before to put him self in a situation that could cause harm to others or to him self. I really hope this whole story does not revolve around race, but more so on the fact that violence is becoming a norm for today’s youth and that society is turning their back to it until a cop has to choose their safety over the offender’s, that’s when society starts to speak up. The first arriving officer was assaulted by Michael Brown and the officer fired one shot inside the vehicle while the officer and and Michael were fighting, the officer was losing this fight and Mr. Brown reached for the gun. After the one shot was fired the officer was able to get out from the vehicle and fire again, striking and killing Michael Brown. Keep in mind that a friend of Mr. Brown was standing there the whole time during the fight, making it an even more dangerous situation for the officer. From the time the call came in for the robbery to the time Michael was shot was 10 minutes and the officer rerouted an ambulance to respond to aid Mr. Brown and that ambulance was on scene in 3 minutes.
You give a detailed account of how things played out that day, but with regards to the shooting, there were multiple witnesses. Samantha is right, you’ve just opted to take one story over another. What you have omitted is the vital part about this discussion, which is the findings of the autopsy as ordered by our country’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, who, oh snap - is a black dude!
What that autopsy shows is that there were actually six shots fired. Don’t ask me why all of the witnesses are coming forward with the, “he had his hands up” narrative, maybe corroborating? And what about that Eric Garner video? Is that the type of video evidence you’re calling for to clear up the, “we don’t really know what happened” line. Your account is pretty vivid, and perhaps from the same police report that the Ferguson officers are just now syncing up on. Join the party!
Samantha: you guys need a lesson in history. This is absolutely about race. I’m not going to waste my time arguing otherwise.
Ryan: Lol for sure cause Africa didn’t already have slavery and neither did any other country/race/continent/time era except for whites (which is the most vague term ever) and is doing great as a country with out whites (disease, genocide, corruption) lol.. a history lesson would slow you people have been enslaved and civilizations conquered since the beginning of time but there is only one race that has been able to portray themselves as victims for it. But hey when you find yourself in the hood getting robbed or are the victim or your family member is a victim of a stray bullet shot for a color of a t shirt or side of the street or you really need government assistance but can’t qualify cause the crackhead parent with no job and no employment on welfare is ahead of you on the list of low income housing, let me know how you feel. But for sure let’s take one incident and make it the general statistic of how cops and African Americans should be looked at and judged lol
Ryan, thanks for the history lesson, LOL!! Maybe Samantha underestimated you after all. What you say is correct. Racism and oppression is old news and certainly not just the burden of blacks in America. But, unfortunately, for us black folks, we are actually that population. You are not. So I have a really hard time when people who have no context for the experience of being part of a discriminated or minority population, are able to passively wave the hand and chalk it up to, “humans being humans.” Sorry dude. You don’t get to do that. And if you do, just say that you’re not interested in human rights, or just be apathetic and live your life and say nothing.
And even though Samantha merely offered a suggestion of a history lesson, you had something to prove. Thank you for sharing the following sentiment:
Ryan: A history lesson would slow you people have been enslaved and civilizations conquered since the beginning of time but there is only one race that has been able to portray themselves as victims for it.
To rephrase: “People being slaves is as old as mankind. Never heard a peep outta any of these other oppressed people ‘cept for you uppity black folks”
Yes, it is true 3,000 years ago blacks were pharaohs and kings. It is true that as part of this monarchical civilization, the (servant) black people rose up against the ruling Egyptians. It’s sorta how we felt when the Brits were all up in our shit in the 18th century. “Liberty or death?” Recall any of the soaring language of the forefathers? Ever consider why they were so pissed? Did they sound kinda whiny during the American Revolution? I’m not that good at history, (better than you), but here’s what I know: in the last 500 years, (which is really all I can manage conceptually), we had Vietnam uprising against China, then the Portuguese rising up on Spain, Pueblos and Spanish fighting in New Mexico in the 17th Century, ‘Murica, aka, “13-colonies” in 1776, and in some order: Ottoman Empire, Vietnam rising up against France, Mexicans rising on Spanish, Ghandi, and that whole Civil War/Rights thing that happened here. Wild times. But, since we’re probably close to the same age, in our lifetime from just what I can remember: Bosnia, Berlin, apartheid in South Africa. There’s also this really tense situation happening in Palestine right now. Their biggest beef is they are being occupied by a military force. Also something in Ukraine. That’s a lot of whining! But uprising can work, and is usually spawned once the oppressive population crosses some preverbal line. I’m not suggesting that’s what we’re in the midst of, but clearly, in the minds of many Americans, a line has been crossed.
Ryan: But hey when you find yourself in the hood getting robbed or are the victim or your family member is a victim of a stray bullet shot for a color of a t shirt or side of the street or you really need government assistance but can’t qualify cause the crackhead parent with no job and no employment on welfare is ahead of you on the list of low income housing, let me know how you feel.
Ditto. But to address your hypotheticals:
1) I have been robbed in the hood at gunpoint - and generally speaking, I still feel more unnerved by cops than I do comforted by them.
2) Family members who die of stray bullets unfortunately happen all the time in our country, not just in black neighborhoods. Please see: Columbine, Sandy Hook, OKC, etc. Out of curiosity, what’s your take on these looney toons having carte blanche to tote guns? I’m pretty sure all those families who lost loved ones are equally bummed out.
3) Now this is where you lose me. I actually haven’t ever been on government assistance, but sounds like maybe you have, or wanted to be. I’m sorry if you didn’t qualify because of an undeserving crackhead parent. I would offer help, but then you would just think I was patronizing you, so I won’t. And sneaky dig with the “crackhead” thing since it is the watered down version of the drug cocaine, and the reason why so many black men are incarcerated, or to borrow a phrase from Palestine, “under siege.”Crack will earn you a mere 12X longer sentence than the far more palatable eight ball of coke, which is the drug of choice for people who can afford it, like pro athletes and whites. Hell, it used to be 18X, but Obama got all uppity and shaved a little off the top. Also, I recall once when Samantha was in urgent care and given a bill the size of a tuition payment, while we could hear this inane yelling of someone who was clearly on drugs separated by just a sheet. The doctor empathetically admitted this was an ongoing schtick for this particular crackhead and that acts like this are all too common and the reason why healthcare costs what it does. So, yeah, as someone who pays taxes and creates jobs, I am also exasperated by the system. Or was that just a racist jab for the sake of effect? Cuz the black people on welfare thing…c’mon dude. You can do better.
More from Ryan: There are still places where prejudice exists but I think it has more to do with economical status these days. And I wait to see the black community get up in arms the next time a white kid is wrongfully attacked/killed/convicted etc.. I won’t be tricked into feeling guilty for the way the world has unfolded but feel free too
I won’t be tricked into feeling guilty for the way the world has unfolded but feel free too
Wow. There is so much rich analysis here. You are correct. Prejudice still exists and it does have more to do with *economic* status these days. But, does that mitigate the prejudice? Is it more acceptable because marginalizing economic opportunity for people is more humane than say, choking them to death? Ryan, don’t be tricked! Stay strong. The world is an ugly place with ugly people - you should not burden yourself with injustice because, hey, it was already here! No sweat off your back, bro. Carpe Diem!
And this Tori, commenter. Sweetheart, I will reserve the least amount of time for you, since your opinions seem the most hollow. I know it’s surprising in the midst of a racial diatribe, but I don’t even feel your perspective warrants any more of my time. Sorry.
If I may, I’ll conclude with a brief story about my own experiences as a black man in your pristine Santa Cruz community. It was the first time I went to visit my lady in her adopted hometown. The first bar I ever went to there was with an old group of her loose acquaintances. I was super unimpressed with the group, but played nice as I was in the courtship phase. But the nice face became an increasingly difficult one to maintain, as one of the homers decided it would be fun to toss out a racial slur. Perhaps just fodder for you local boys, but I grew up in Atlanta, which unlike Santa Cruz is predominantly black and we are super sensitive about stuff like that. We’ve had very strong and outspoken black leaders emerge from our city who condemn this kind of thing. You probably haven’t heard of most of them, but there was a really prominent one named Martin Luther King. Pretty big deal in Atlanta, and even outside of our city.
Santa Cruz? Santa Cruz is just…white. I mean, not literally because this is America, but like according to our census, 3 out of 4 people in Santa Cruz are white. It’s not that shocking, because that number at least kind of represents our country, and why black people are so sensitive about shit like race. But the thing about Santa Cruz, the place from which you all presumably come, is that of the 25% “other” race, blacks are less than one percent. For reference: the rest of our country is somewhere around 12% and cities like Ferguson 67% black and ATL over 50% black. Imagine how we might feel differently. It’s very easy to absolve yourself when you don’t have to interact with the people you condemn on television, or base perceptions on an outlier friend you have, or that a friend of a friend has. You guys live in a bubble and I warn you: you’re starting to sound like it. I can tell you that being black in Santa Cruz, even as a visitor, is uneasy.
For all of you commenters, I can assure you I will waste no more time on this particular conversation because I am now busy focusing my energies on what I am actually going to do to support my community and other affected minority communities in light of recent events. I have some ideas, but at the very least, will start here: support. Thank you all for reminding me that, it’s bigger than me or you, or even Mike Brown. Unlike Ryan, I am being shaken from my apathy. And officer Mike, if I ever see you in Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara, please: DON’T SHOOT.
- Stephen A. Satterfield -