Saturday, August 23, 2014

To Whom it May Concern...

To whom it may concern,

There is something weighing on my soul that’s been hard to put into words...until now.

You see, I've been stuck, paralyzed, disheartened, transported back to a time when “We shall Overcome”…"No Justice, No peace…” and “I am a Man…” were the pleas of “non-humans.”

A suppressed memory came back the other day. My father and I were walking on a downtown sidewalk. A white man came toward us and Sonny, my dad, stepped off the curb. No words were exchanged…but the look of shame in his eyes connected a son to the gut-wrenching story of a father born and broken in the Deep South.  

I’m angry at you for bringing that back. I’m hurt that you've reminded me that skin color is the equation of life or death. I’m saddened that my children and grandchildren will be burdened by the scars of our ancestors. You see, you may not realize it, but your ignorant, stupid, callous, inhumane, fucked up actions and reactions have set US ALL back decades.

How could you not feel? While gun smoke blended with afternoon air; while the echo of bullets rang through apartment hallways; while a mother screamed and dark, red blood slithered down the street like a newborn snake; while credits rolled on a life yet lived…

How could you not see that it was not the time for slathering dogs, M-16’s and red-faced orders to “BEHAVE?”

I write “to whom it may concern” because there’s no one person to blame. Honestly, I can’t say why an officer named Wilson decided to empty his gun into the body of an unarmed teen. And we will probably never know. A thick blue line of arrogance and brotherhood and superiority and hatred and FEAR blur and blunt the truth.

I do know that you had ONE, small, precious, irretrievable moment to make this almost right; to make the sting less agonizing; to leave dignity intact. You had an opening, an opportunity to say; “You are a mother; you are my neighbors, my friends…MY KIDS.”

But, no, Chief Jackson, you let it blow away like dandelions in a gusty, August wind. 

You and your comrades answered anger with armor; mourning with mounted weapons; tears with tear gas; swagger with SWAT teams; and fury with flash-bang grenades.  You seized the occasion to show off your new government-issued toys and brandish your old government-endorsed biases. You showed this smart-ass, uppity, young generation that they will never bring new meaning to the word…“NIGGA!”


You have betrayed our kids. You may see them as specters of your stereotypes; as pants-saggin’, hot-headed hoodlums; as pathetic piranhas devouring everything you deem “wholesome and dear”… but we made and molded them. We gave them poverty and Prada, Ghettos and Gucci; Hopelessness and HBO; We made the Walking Dead Expendable and told them to “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”

We have sold them a big, hot, steaming bag of Americanized, homogenized horseshit and now…THEY KNOW IT!

We told them they can be whatever they want to be in this Great Land of ours; We told them they have the Constitutional right to peaceful protest; to vent out loud; to speak against wrong; to stand against injustice. We told them to “Trust Officer Friendly.”

We did not tell them that the boys we bred on the hot, dusty fields of Iraq and Afghanistan have returned with WAR seared into their psyches. We did not tell them that a bag of Skittles, a can of Arizona iced tea, a stolen pack of Cigarillos or simply walking on the sidewalk is the equivalent of bombs strapped to the bellies of the “ENEMY.”  We did not warn them that “BLACK” is the new code word for “TERRORIST” on American soil.

And don’t you dare be so smug; don’t let the darkness sooth you. For YOUR kids see YOU, too. Your kids have braved those lines. They've tasted your venom; witnessed your hypocrisy; been tased by your indifference and choked by your ambivalence. 

They've awakened from their social media haze to see monsters from history books smiling, sitting, rationalizing in their very own living rooms. With finger to lip, they are shushed, dismissed, told: “Hush…we’re listening to Rush.”

“To whom it may concern” is apropos…’cause, really, I don’t know. I speak not to one but many. I curse the addicted, the forgivers and enablers. I spit at an old evil…my father’s evil. I write to a mindset, an institution, a SYSTEM that should be long dead.  

I speak to RACISM, good ole “Uncle Ray.” I see his diseased, gnarly fingers, covering a wicked, defiant, smile of broken, yellow, razor-rat teeth.  A Southern pot belly stuffed with racial strife expands proudly, pushing red, white and blue suspenders beyond its elastic limit.

“Bring it!” “I will fucking kill you!"


“Write through it,” Maya would say…

...but the feelings are too strong; the list is too long: It’s the ugly and unkind, the Post and the posters and those who've lost their goddamn minds; it’s the One-Percenters, the perpetrators, the Po-Po, the President and the press with its shitty lies; it's the apologists, the procrastinators and people who've taken their eyes off the PRIZE.

“Write through it,” ghostly scribes say… there is still so much to learn…

So this is for you...

To whom it may concern....


Heather said...

There are clearly a lot of angry emotions lurking beneath the surface, waiting to have something or someone to pin it on. Why don't you choose to assess the actual facts of the case, which are NOT that Mike Brown was executed for being black, but that he was killed because he attacked the threatened the life of an officer. Why choose to see the situation in a negative light if only to justify and magnify your anger?

Sylvester Brown, Jr. said...

Yes, Heather, there are many "angry emotions" but they're not "beneath the surface." You just read them. Heather, dear, I understand why you don't understand; it's not your world. You're relying on fabricated "facts" based on your experience with police. Like I said, I don't know why Wilson shot Mike Bell. But that's not the point. It's humanity and dignity and compassion for people-even those who don't look like you.

Tell you what, there's a child in the photo that accompanied your comment. Imagine he/she were shot down by a cop in the street like a dog. Imagine he/she were left lying there for four hours and the cops show up with dogs and machine guns while you're trying to get to your child's body. If you can imagine all that, come back and let's see if we can avoid discussing "the situation in a negative light."

Peace to you & yours. - Sylvester

David Arnold said...

Experience is a teacher, but not an enlightened one. I trusted officer friendly until I was nearly 50 and was attacked by a Park Ranger for being attacked by an "under cover" rent a cop, and ignored by police.

Writing through is not good if it just dissipates the energy... unpacking is required. Measured inhibition is not the same as stifling. An internal combustion engine doesn't prevent explosions, it provides a context in which to reap useful control over explosive events.

Stepping off a curb exposes the threat to life that was (is?) all too real. The oppressor's problem is how to stop without reaping the fruits of the cruelty. How to step back from a deadly embrace?

I wonder if you can imagine the pain of walking down the street and having someone step off the curb at your approach? Of having no personal history in creating or perpetuating "the status quo" and being dragged into it? How can I blame those who learned excessive caution because it wasn't excessive? How can I disavow the symbol I am to others simply because of my skin color? What must I have presence of mind to do in that split second? Step off the curb too? Collide in the street if possible?

How can I think that fast in the moment? It requires unpacking, and repacking. Who am I to reach out and extend my hand to pull another back on the sidewalk? This isn't my legacy, but it is my broken present just the same. What really can I do? What should I do?

When, in fact, people who look like me are still lethally dangerous, is it moral to confuse the caution for young people of color? I discovered I wasn't safe from officer friendly. And I am color coded to be safe from officer friendly.

Pain? yes. Unfairness exposed? certainly. What do do? requires a great deal of unpacking I'm afraid, ... A challenge to you Sylvester, help me unpack this ... what do +we+ do to address the danger and inequity stepping of the curb acknowledges, that still persists, and that is NOT restricted to color as we were both incorrectly taught?