In the past five years, black people in America have been reminded that there is an ever-increasing list of things that black people cannot do that would otherwise seem nebulous if not for the color of our skin. And yesterday, we learned that the “crime” of being black while visiting a friend at an off-campus apartment complex known to house college students, could have cost four FAMU students there lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida A&M University students Isaiah Butterfield, Stephen Brooks, Joshua Cosby, and Fitzroy Rhoden were waiting at the complex’s garage entrance waiting for a friend, Zavian Flowers, who had just moved in, to open the door.
The video, which has since gone viral, shows a random white man become unreasonably agitated at the young men as they wait for their friend, who lives at the complex, to come open the door.
As is often the case in scenarios such as this, a random ass white man comes out of nowhere. Makes threats and demands of black people. All the while expecting total obedience because he’s white and they’re not. We like to make up cute names to shame the aggressors in situations like this; BBQ Becky, Pool Patrol Paula, but the case in Florida was more than an agitated white woman acting out.
With “Rest in Power: Trayvon Martin”, the documentary that is executive produced by Jay Z, the viewer revisits a traumatic occurrence that speed-slapped Americans out of the erroneous post-racial narrative that was floated around following the election of Barack Obama as the first Black man to sit in the Oval Office.
What’s more frightening than a black man staring down the barrel of a gun? A black man staring down the barrel of a gun held by a white man who has already illustrated that he’s offended by your mere presence. Aside from videotaping the incident what can be done at that moment?
Bullets travel faster than people, and the word of a white man in the deep south carries more weight and worth than the words of four young black men. Plainly put, he could have shot them dead then fabricated a story explaining how he feared for his life, and there’s a strong chance he would have gotten away with it because Florida is a “Stand Your Ground” state.
With Trayvon Martin’s murder, we see prosecutors seemingly acquiescing to the idea that white fragility, sensibilities, and fears trump the rights of black people just to exist. What would have prevented this very same scenario from playing out had the man decided to fire his weapon before anyone could take out a phone and record his actions? Nothing.
These are the kind of people that are burning Nike products , we are sick of the discrimination never thought I’d have a personal experience with racism like this, this man pulled a gun on us because we were walking up to my friends apartment w/o a key https://t.co/TlMFQjoM1N
In the words of D.L. Hughley, the most dangerous place for a black person to live is in the imaginations of white folks. This is why this particular scenario has the potential to be so dangerous for black folks, and white folks know it. This is why we see video recording after video recording of white folks barging into the lives of people of color with assumptions and innuendo culled from the depths of their imaginations.
It is in their imaginations that we don’t study Ivy League libraries. It is in their imaginations that Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, both children, are hulking, monstrous, grown-ass men. It is in their imaginations that a woman looking to redeem coupons is scheming on a come up. It is in their imaginations that black people are a second away from threatening the American way of life.
Their imaginations, stacked with centuries of bigotted assumptions, pseudo-science, religious prejudice, and good ol’ fashion, down-home racism, that black people instinctively steer clear of with their every action. But it doesn’t matter what our hair looks like, our clothing looks like, nor our diction, accents or slang words.
What matters is that everyday Americans, some of our co-workers, neighbors, city workers, medical professionals, service industry employees, and police officers all seem willing to escalate an argument over a parking space to a level of deadly violence.
Indeed, authorities have historically shown great apathy toward, if not the encouragement of, the everyday disenfranchisement of the black man, woman, and child in all facets of American society.