“What Can I Do?”

Omar JimenezThe problem isn’t just police.  The problem is the specific policing of blackness. Policing blackness is the attempt to constrain, contain, silence, appropriate, shape or otherwise mutilate the humanity of black people to suit white comfort.  Where it goes tragically wrong is when policing blackness is combined with a badge and a weapon and a license to police blackness in the name of “public safety”.

Policing blackness is a historical sickness that the Civil War, emancipation, voting rights and the Supreme Court have not cured or mitigated.  It shows up in every street crossed by a white woman when she sees a black man approaching her; it shows up when black people laugh and enjoy themselves in public and someone calls the cops; it shows up when a black person is assumed not to be in charge or in a position of authority; it shows up when black people are not paid the same as their white counterparts; it shows up when black children are treated like playthings or dolls; it shows up when black people protest and are called “thugs” while fully armed gangs of white people are called “patriots”.  And it shows up when a white cop decides he is where law and life begin and end, and no one does a damn thing to stop him.  Policing blackness is not so much a failure of law as a disgusting failure of morals.

I’m asked on a regular basis by white people who want to end racism, “what can I do?”…like I’m supposed to have an answer.  Like this is my problem.  But I’m not the one policing blackness in act, gesture, dress, language, history, politics, sex and every other way imaginable and unimaginable.  I wouldn’t know where to begin to tell white people “what can I do?” I have no way to understand that perspective. My blackness is so entirely foreign to white people in ways that whiteness can never be foreign to me because of the perversion of how my blackness has been policed by whiteness my entire life.  I have no answer to the question “what can I do?” There is no book, course, curriculum, workshop or checklist that I can write or teach.  White people, please stop asking me. Please figure it out yourselves.

The one thing I can say is that on the other side of this nightmare, whenever dawn arrives, no white person will ever feel as if they are entitled to ask me or any other person of color “what can I do?”  Because it will finally dawn on them that the act of asking “what can I do?” is in itself policing my blackness.

-ALD

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