Sidney is one of my best friends. I’ve known him since about 2010 or 2011 and we regularly talk about the big subjects along with the small. He knows me better than most people and knows where my proverbial bodies are buried. I trust him with just about anything. We’re both huge comic book geeks (he actually works in a comic store) and we’re also Black men who have had a decent amount of white friends over our lives. Recently during one of our random comic store discussions he mentioned that I’m posting more and more content that’s centered around Black people. And while I’ve ramped up the volume of things I’ve shared or posted, I’ve always posted things to show people what’s important to me. However, in recent times, I’ve been needing to remind people that I am Black and care about Black people because I feel like people don’t really get how important that is to me. When two people I don’t know had read my work in the last couple of months told me separately that they can tell that I love Black people, I smiled. They got it. But there’s always been this other side that hasn’t and that’s bugged me through this day.
Years ago after my second child was born, I had these friends of mine watch her since child care costs were so high. These people I knew welcomed my daughter into their home and for a good amount of time made sure that she was taken care of, fed, and welcomed into family events. They planned joint birthday parties with her and their child who has a birthday near their own child's’, cake and presents included and were always available in an emergency. I even came back to visit them after moving to another state. However, I had never interacted with them online, or rather, who I’ll refer to as The Husband. He and I were honestly pretty cool for several good years before I added him to Facebook...and that’s where the problems started.
After adding them online I got to see more of his conservative views. My view of him changed from a laid back, even-keeled guy to a standard, white, male consumer of all things Fox News. Each time I would post things regarding my view of the word (a very leftist leaning view) he would be sure to be the first to come in and be the contrarian to all of those posts, sparking heated arguments in my comment sections on an almost weekly basis. The number of people who ended up in my inbox asking how I could be friends with such a person became too much to ignore. It was bad enough that he came out in support of Trump (something I didn’t see from him at the beginning of the campaign) but then hearing that he fully supports and knows Joe Arpaio meant that things were going to come to a head soon and I couldn’t have been more right.
The anniversary of the murder of Mike Brown came along and I changed my profile picture to commemorate the date. Not even within 10 minutes of posting it, he chimed in with some incendiary comment about how Mike Brown deserved to die. That was the last straw and I just deleted the comment and him from my page. I had seen signs of his views for some time now and I still have the messages to prove it. But this showed me once and for all what he thought of me. And yes, not just Mike Brown, but me.
I’m going to explain Black Lives Matter very quickly again for the ignorant. It was always implied that it means Black Lives Matter, Too and not ONLY Black Lives Matter. White lives are always treated as the default in this country and so we have to be able to stick up for ourselves when no one else will. If we don’t let people know that they should stop unjustly killing us, they’ll keep doing it and telling the world we liked it. Every time an innocent Black person, especially a Black male, is unjustly killed in this country a retroactive smear campaign is created to justify their death. It’s ingrained so much into America that it’s become the norm. It doesn’t matter that the person had no weapon on them, a Black body is just a body that is lucky to no longer be alive. It caused trouble and with how bad off Black people are it was just a matter of time before this happened anyway. This is what I hear from white people each and every time this happens. Trayvon was made out to be some thug and his killer is not only free but has been arrested just about yearly since the murder occurred. I don’t even feel like going down the list of people I can name off the top of my head that it’s happened to from Amadou Diallo through whomever unjustly was killed today. Each time a narrative is created to desicrate the life of one of these people, I take that VERY personally because it very well could have been me and I get a glimpse into how I’ll be portrayed to justify my murder.
So it pained me when the subject came up again just this week. Recently in Clarksville, TN (where I’ve lived for a number of years) an unarmed 15-year-old Black male was killed while outside in the driveway of a white man’s house. And not only was he killed in cold blood, but the man also shot this child from inside his home without a warning. While sitting inside his home, he decided to execute a child. This is heartless and flat out murder. On top of that, I went to find the person on the booking logs and saw that he had bonded out 3 days later. I was furious and shared the story in a group chat with people that not only lived in that area with me, but I considered as close as family. I explained the situation to them and the responses I got from the white male and white woman in that group shocked me to my core but I’m sure won’t surprise anyone reading up to this point.
“Why was he in the guys driveway?”
“Where were his parents?”
“Why was the kid out in the middle of the night?”
“Prescience on the property uninvited is a provocation.”
“Yeah, I don’t think the skin color was the issue here.”
“Would it have been better for the property owner to have waited to be shot themselves?”
“It’s unfortunate on both sides. There’s guilt on both sides.”
“I can’t think of a scenario where a kid lurks in a driveway in the middle of the night and is not either stealing or breaking in.”
This is a handful of responses I got after sending the story off and explaining what I’d seen. This is vile and unfortunately, way too common amongst those that will justify the killing of a Black child. Every statement above has a CLEAR and obvious retort and regardless of even skin color (but it’s damned important) these people at LEAST just advocated for child murder and said there’s guilt for an unarmed 15-year-old who was killed without warning. These are people I considered FAMILY but after this, I realized the same thing that so many people like me have figured out. That I’m not seen as a Black person, I’m just One Of The Good Ones.
During this heated exchange, I challenged them as I continued to be gaslit regarding my controversial stance on not murdering unarmed children. I told them that unless they knew me, they would think the exact same about me. Of course, I was told they would never ask those questions if it happened to me because they know me better. And that right there is exactly my point. I’ve never fired a gun in my life, never been arrested, never been to jail, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol, I’m as plain as can be for a 38-year-old Black male. And yet, I’ve been outside walking in the day and in the middle of the night, near people's driveways and looking at house numbers on a mailbox to confirm my location. I’ve been with friends who innocently leaned on cars while relaxing talking to friends. I’ve been approached as a teenager for looking inside a car with a nice interior. I wasn’t killed over any of those things. And yet, to them, a kid that they don’t know, has guilt for being outside and a murderer who killed a child for him being near his stuff should get the benefit of the doubt. As a Black kid who never had a gun, that could have EASILY been me. I didn’t have a curfew growing up and I was in school every day. I’ve skipped once in my life. But since I wouldn’t have been personally known by them, I would’ve been just another dead Black kid with guilt on my side. My skin is my sin.
I’m not One Of The Good Ones. I’m the kid in the street when his parents let him roam. I’m the man coming back from a party who got shot in his car. I’m the kid who was playing with toy guns in the park and was killed within seconds of being seen. I’m the person walking back at night with Skittles and a drink because I didn’t have a car. I’m not better than the person with a loud colored car and louder music. I’m not better than the person who has multiple parents for their kids. I’m not above any Black person you deem ready to be killed. I’m not One Of The Good Ones, I’m one of them. THAT is why I have to remind people that I’m Black and that I care about those who aren’t me. This is exactly why I need to show those that see me as "other" that I’m right in the thick of it with any person that is killed for no reason or just living their lives. I’m Black like any other not One Of The Good Ones.
Why don’t you consider all of them good? What makes me better? My proximity to your whiteness? Your perceived worthiness? I can’t abide by that. If that’s the case, I’ll remove myself from it in order for you to see me as just another face in the crowd. Another Black person that you can make up stories for when I die. Because I’ll no longer matter to you then but I still matter to me.
Black Lives Matter means MY life matters and I refuse to be told otherwise.
I will no longer kowtow for those that do not respect me for the person I am and the people I advocate for. I respect myself and my own identity too much for that. I’ve never been and never cared to be One Of The Good Ones.