Commentary by Harry Colbert, Jr., Managing Editor
I’m afraid for my life.
I’ve experienced racism. I know what oppression feels like. But I never feared it. I was angered by it, but never was I fearful … until now. I am honestly fearful.
I’m afraid that my life will end at the hands of either a jittery (or downright racist) cop or some rightwing nut job. While that may have been a probability all along, when the President of the United States advocates for the brutality of its citizens, and Michele Bachmann, a woman in his inner circle, spouts racist rhetoric to her GOP base and she has a legitimate chance at becoming Minnesota’s next governor (she was already a U.S. Representative), well the probability has increased to a likelihood.
The headline was so sensational I knew it had to be that infamous “fake news.” The headline that popped across my Facebook timeline Friday afternoon (July 28) was “Donald Trump Endorses Police Brutality in Speech to Cops.”
No way was this true. I checked the source … Huffington Post … a legitimate and trusted news source. It’s not April 1, so I didn’t get the sense that this was a sick April Fool’s joke. Reluctantly I clicked the link … and became nauseated in the most literal sense. I’m still experiencing an elevation in heart rate and blood pressure.
Donald Trump … the President of the United States … said “please don’t be too nice” in arresting individuals – “thugs” as he called them – and throwing them into a paddy wagon.
“Please don’t be too nice.”
Tears immediately welled as the image of Freddie Gray popped in my head … as the repressed memory of me being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon in 1990 – held at gunpoint, arrested for being a Black teen in the wrong neighborhood.
No longer repressed, the memory is at the forefront of my thoughts … seeing guns drawn … being in the wagon with my three fellow “thugs” (all who were in college at the time, and with no criminal record), handcuffed behind our backs, hard metal benches, no seatbelts or restraints … hearing the laughter from the officer driving as he made the widest of turns that threw us about the cage. The imprint of the cuffs lasted two days. Had it not been for the Black commander cursing out his white arresting officers and demanded our release (after several hours in a cell … and still handcuffed) who knows what would have happened.
I could have been Freddie Gray. And that would have been just fine with Trump … and sadly the overwhelming majority of his 62,979,636 voters. Let’s “keep it 100” as the youth say. Anyone who voted for Trump is either racist at the core or is complicit is allowing and ignoring racism … period.
The most sickening part of the Trump video talking to police? The scariest part of the video? The laughter … and the cheering.
Flanked by dozens of white officers, Trump advocates for violence and this group sworn to protect laughs, then cheers as Trump says, “Don’t protect the head” while placing a human being into a squad car.
Those are the faces of men and women who would kill us at a moment’s notice and be more upset about having to be placed on desk duty for 30 days than they would be about the human life they just took. Such was the case of an officer involved shooting in Chicago, caught on police body camera.
Unfortunately, I finally understand the angst of my elders, fearful to sometimes even speak above a whisper when white people are near. I too now know such angst.
But like Medgar Evers and so many others like him, I refuse to whisper. And I do so knowing the consequences I may face. I choose to yell rather than whisper. I’m not yelling for me. I’m yelling for my nieces and nephews. I’m yelling for the future son or daughter that may one day come. I’m yelling for the children I see every day at play, hoping they never have to grow up knowing this fear that lives inside of me.