Thursday, August 14, 2014

Learn, Ferguson. Learn.

It should be no surprise that there is tumult in the wake of a Ferguson, MO police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager Mike Brown in the head. It should be no surprise that talking heads on both the left and the right are stroking their angrections™, with people on the far left stating that only armed rebellion will resolve this lack of concern for young black men and women and people on the far right claiming that all negroes are thugs and deserve to die anyway...and somehow blaming everything on Obama…It should not be any surprise that the media, that is supposedly primarily “liberal”, went with the standard protocol of finding the most MENACING looking picture they could find of Mike Brown, a high school graduate on his way to college, and tried to dig up some blemish of his past, like he went to detention one time for being late to class, proving his thuggish nature, thereby almost justifying the opinions of those who think he deserved to be shot in the street like a wounded animal.

What is surprising is that people are oblivious to the parallels of the aftermath of the Ferguson fiasco and the aftermath of every sexual assault and every gay bashing in America. There is a shock scenario cycle:

  1. Person with power severely beats/rapes/kills a person with less power.
  2. News media initiate initial nationwide SHOCK! :-o
  3. News media initiate subsequent victim blaming (he should have dressed manlier/she was wearing a bikini ON A BEACH/black people shouldn’t have black wallets because they look like guns).
  4. Twitter hashtag started by members of the victim’s social group illustrating that the type of crime happens all the time.
  5. Talking heads deny that it happens all the time, even though there is blatant evidence EVERYWHERE that it happens all the time.
  6. Someone blames Obama.
  7. Nationwide angrection™.
  8. Repeat.

I have been black for 36 years now. A side effect of puberty in black boys is that along with the acne and extra hair, you also acquire the suspicions of store owners and police officials. Since I was 14/15, I lost count of how many times I have been slammed on the ground or a wall or stopped in my car or followed in a store, all while shopping or going to school or work. How dare I set outside my house? My form of dress never mattered. When I’m in a hoodie, I am basically treated like I’m wearing an orange jumpsuit and suspected of crafting a shiv out of a spoon and a bar of soap. When I’m in a tie, the aggression isn’t as severe, but I have been disdainfully asked to get things like coffee or clean up a spill or give golfing advice to Matt Damon. My favourite interaction is when I’m new in a company, and colleagues ask me, “Were you in the military? No? Well how’d you get this engineering job? Oh, you have a degree? Like a bachelor’s? In engineering?” What they are really asking me is, “Nigger, how’d you get this job? Are you sure you’re not an Affirmative Action hire? There’s no way you are as smart as me. Who taught you math and English?” I see things like the Ferguson shooting, and I am both used to hearing about it and livid at the same time.

According to most women with whom I’ve spoken, something similar happens to them when puberty hits, except instead of the watchful eye of patrolmen and store owners, they acquire the watchful eye of EVERY STRAIGHT MAN EVER. I imagine this is similar to how Bugs Bunny feels when he is in a dark forest, and all you can see is hundreds of pairs of eyes leering at you and about to pounce, literally. It doesn’t matter if a woman is going to school or work or a club. How dare she step outside her house? Form of dress doesn’t matter. If she is wearing a business suit, then the blouse is too low-cut and drawing attention. If she is wearing a tank top and miniskirt, well then she was just asking for it! Forget that it’s summer in July! The cat calls (and worse) will abound. Intelligence will be questioned. One of my female colleagues (also an engineer) was often asked when she first started, “Were you in the military? No? Well how’d you get this engineering job? Oh, you have a degree? Like a bachelor’s? In engineering?” What they were really asking was, “Who did you sleep with to get this job? How does a girl know math? There’s no way you can conceive complex physics and have boobs at the same time. Are you sure you’re not an Affirmative Action hire, like that nigger over there?”

I am not sure exactly what plights members of the LGBTQ population endure. I just know of the many savage beatings that trans women in Baltimore have gone through when they were doing nothing but walking down public streets. Boys often get the tar beaten out of them if people simply suspect them of being gay, so I imagine that young men who actually ARE gay have to do a lot of hiding and posturing to keep the bigoted hounds off of their trail. So from puberty (or earlier) on, there is a lot of hiding in plain sight, until the one day a young man decides to be out and proud, at which point some friends are lost, and some enemies are gained. How dare he express himself the way he always wanted to? He’s not bothering anyone, but who cares! I do not know what people ask gay men and trans women at their jobs, but I do know what they say to other colleagues and me: “Can you believe that John is now Judy? What do I call ‘shim’? I can’t believe I used to go fishing with him. I wonder if he stuck his dick in my ear when I was sleeping? Would you let your kids around him? You would? I wouldn’t. How would I explain THAT to my son?” What they are really saying is...all that. I have heard all that from my colleagues about a transitioning woman, who eventually quit the job, because of all of those questions behind her back. She was a retired marine. What a great way to treat a veteran!

I could go on forever with the parallels. For every Lizzy Seeberg, there is a Mike Brown. For every Matthew Shepard, there is a John Crawford. People will make excuses and somehow make the victims of crime somewhat complicit in their own pain, all while talking about murderous white men as if they were saints before they sprayed their schools and movie theaters with bullets and blood.

Because of the many parallels, you cannot be a civil rights activist and not be a feminist and a gay rights advocate as well. Stove piping groups’ human rights as separate issues diminishes everyone’s rights. The idea that we have to get our own house together before we work on our neighbours’ houses is counterproductive. The more we stovepipe, the more scenes like what is happening in Ferguson will occur, and the more even more scenarios like what happened to a young woman in Steubenville will happen, with one of the guilty being able to play football again. The shock scenario cycle will keep churning until we’re all a little bit less selfish about helping out each other.

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