“Maybe Just A Little Separation”

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In 1820 members of the African Colonization Society began a repatriation movement to return formerly enslaved Africans in the United States to the continent of Africa. Their settlement began as the Republic of Liberia. In 1917 Marcus Mosiah Garvey established the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) to help the African diaspora organize to return to the continent. In the 1960s the leader of the Nation of Islam, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad advocated for a separate section of the United States, located in the South, where Blacks in America could live in peace. Most African Americans have argued for the principle set forth in the landmark 1954, Brown v. Board of Education decision that said in public policy “separate is inherently unequal.” So, none of the proposals for a mass movement away from the rest of the nation, especially Whites, has ever taken root. As Black people we have wanted to be a part of the grand American experiment.
But, there have been moments! And today, after receiving the news of a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury that failed to indict police officer Derron Wilson for shooting young Michael Brown, Jr. to death. is one of those moments. To be sure, I would have been shocked if the grand jury returned a murder one indictment for the White police man. But I had hopes that perhaps a manslaughter charge could have been rendered. It was not to be. The news of no indictment hit many in the Black community hard. Like a lot of my friends I took to social media to vent my frustrations and at the same time many in Ferguson took to the streets. And, while no one wants to see the destruction of property, looting, and certainly not bodily harm I could truly understand the sentiments that led to each of those things. People were mad. They were upset. They were enraged. It all seemed so familiar. It all seemed so predictable. It all seemed so planned. And at the base of this familiar, predictable, plan was the death of an 18-year-old. And I understood that rage.
I understand what it feels like to be so voiceless and marginalized that the only thing you think you can do to get people to pay attention is to yell, scream, burn, loot, and destroy.
As I watched the news coverage of what was happening in Ferguson (and I will say that I got tired of seeing that one car burning) I was seething. How did we find ourselves back in this same place once again? How did we fall for this all over again?
And, while what happened with that grand jury in Ferguson impacted everyone who cares about justice I could feel my tolerance for listening to White voices lessening. I just wanted a little separation from people I felt couldn’t really share my pain. I wanted to crawl into a cocoon of black love and support. I wanted to be in a space where I didn’t have to explain everything. I just wanted to feel and to mourn an authentic Black moment. I didn’t want to hear from Iggy Azalea, Justin Bieber, or Robin Thicke. I was sick of white supremacy and the all encompassing whiteness that had made the Ferguson grand jury decision possible. As I drove my car to work and listened to the radio the White woman on my public radio affiliate began a rant about how much PROPERTY was lost because of “those people.” When I went into my building you would have thought there was a moratorium on speaking. People were amazingly silent and acting in that “if we don’t say anything maybe it will be all right” way. Of course I insisted that students in my class confront the Ferguson issue. I pointed out that they could not call themselves “critical” if they were unwilling to engage the critical issues of the moment.
But as for me…I just wanted some separation. I’d had enough of White folks. For at least the next 24-48 hours I didn’t want to concern myself with taking care of them, making them feel better, patting them on their backs and telling them that everything’s going to be all right. I just need a little separation.

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3 thoughts on ““Maybe Just A Little Separation”

  1. Thank you for this. I have often wondered how you put yourself out for so many all day long. Take care.

    Sent from my iPad Julie Landsman

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  2. I don’t know what happened that day in Ferguson and nor do you. In the end only Michael Brown and officer Wilson truly know the facts. I agree that there is a problem in this country with law enforcement and profiling. I grew up in West Philly in the 70’s through the 90’s. I saw it on a daily basis. It is as bad today, if not worse. Unfortunately, it is a product of our upbringing – many white people raised in a pregidous, if not racist environment and blacks growing up dealing with the realities of living in a world with those false perceptions. It doesn’t help when the media inflames many of these perceptions. It takes people willing to be open minded and having the courage to break down those perceptions, based on their own one on one experiences with other people (regardless of race or religion). Esentially, judging people by what they see and the reality of their own interactions.

    I cringe every time I see law enforcement react with deadly force in situations that don’t seem to warrant such force. That said, I also can’t assume to understand how a police officer feels when confronted by an individual that seems to have ill intent. I believe many times an officer reacts subconsciously based on many of those false perceptions, pregidous ideals that have been engrained in their minds. I honestly don’t believe officer Wilson woke up that morning planning to gun down a black man. I also feel he could have done something else (shot Michael Brown in his leg? To subdue him, instead of firing 10-12 shots killing him). Again, playing back seat driver in a situation like that is easy sitting from our couch, but in the heat of the momentthings happen differently than we might handle with time to think about our actions. I am guessing officer Wilsonmay say he wished he handled things differently off the record (or maybe I am just hoping he would?).

    One thing I am concerned with is how almost everyone in the media and african american communities is willing to tear the officer apart for his actions that day, but there is hardly any mention / blame pointed at Michael Brown for essentially causing the confrontation in the first place. Again, I wasn’t there, but the video released from the convenience store indicates Michael Brown wasn’t acting like a nice, law abiding citizen just walking down the street on sunny summer day. There is plenty of blame to go around and unfortunately a young man needlessly died that day. i just wish people could try to see the whole picture with an open mind and not just simplfy things down to a white officer shoots an unarmed black man. There were many variables involved in what occurred that day and hopefully some positive comes out of it (retraining of law enforcement to shoot to subdue, not to kill?).

    Thanks for the discussion / outlet to opine,

    Humane & Logical.

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  3. Your post reminded me of my final conversation with my favorite uncle Irving Robinson. I was in the Navy at the time and I was talking with him on the phone. For most of my life, he was in mental institutions following nervous breakdowns from having been brutalized while serving in the armed forces. Toward the end of his life, his medication was removed and this amazing person emerged who was sensitive, insightful and tremendously conscious and aware of social issues. Toward the end of his life, my mother arranged for him to move to an assisted living facility down the street from our house. I had just gotten out of college and enjoyed the unannounced visits and phone calls requesting that I pick him up and take him out for various reasons. I was calling him during the holidays and discovered from my mother that he had moved from the facility down the street from our house. I was very surprised and asked to talk to him to find out what happened. I asked, “Uncle Irving, why did you move from (name of the facility)?”
    He replied, “I’m tired of White people.”
    I assumed that they had done something to precipitate the move so I asked him, “Did they mess with your money or mistreat you in some kind of way?”
    “No, they’re nice and everything, I’m just tired of them.”
    I always treasure that conversation because it captured the subtle insight that characterized so many of my conversations with him. Without being analytical, he articulated the fatigue of soul that occurs from having to deal with people whose sense of identity and order requires lack of understanding of the basic realities that you have to deal with and it is indeed tiring. Thanks for your postings.

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