We all know they’re here. Everyone tries to deny it: to pretend they don’t exist. But they’re out in plain sight all the time and every once in a while remind us of they’re existence. We try to ignore them. Sometimes we even try to pretend they’re not alien at all. We incorporate parts of their culture into our own. But only parts of it. We may listen and sing along with their music. Heck, heard but not seen is nearly acceptable when it comes to this unwanted presence. But we wouldn’t invite them say to a sit-down dinner inside our homes.
I am speaking of course of black people in America.
This can include all minorities really. Many of the same conditions apply. You often feel as if you don’t know what to say around them. They’re there like all the other people. In your office building. Your doctor’s office. Maybe your favorite restaurant. But not at your table.
We can view them on a big screen. Maybe even on TV. It’s almost like having them in our home. But not quite. None of the other people in your home would have to provide such services like portraying someone in a position of authority or telling you about tomorrow’s weather. Serving a function makes it okay for them to be there though. Almost.
Let’s face it America, if racism were truly over we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We wouldn’t be discussing the color of the policeman’s skin while pretending not to bring up that of their victims’, as if it were some disease, it would be distasteful to and vulgar to point out. You wouldn’t be in denial, and you wouldn’t be in this mess.
The protests remain futile, the commentary polarized, and had that been a white 12-year-old boy with a BB gun pointed at no one shot dead without even having had the chance to drop it, there would not be as much of it. People would not degrade the loss of that life with the platitude of necessary force. It’s only even because of the previous assaults on minorities, a lone unarmed man jumped by five police officers having the life crushed out of him, another shot dead in front of his family for not having identification on him, creating this seemingly normal paradigm where the person on TV has been transformed from a weatherman to a crime victim that this could even be said, like it’s simply a different role the people you only acknowledge when on that impersonal screen has changed. To you, they are simply continuing to serve a function. Which function doesn’t seem to much matter. It’s never real or consequential when presented on the TV.
Imagine if you will an alien observer to the present scene. They’ve arrived but we don’t know it. Cloaked from our senses and satellites they can observe freely, adapting their technology to receive our own they could try to get a grasp of our cultural values through the medium we spend so much of our free time viewing. Imagine them trying to determine what kind of people we were from the news, televised fiction and real life behavior of those that spend their time in all three elements. What would they see?
First, assuming they could distinguish the different skin colors, they’d see far more diversity on the screen than in real life. Certainly a statistical analysis would prove that there are as many different color earthlings in the real-life world, but not mixing together as on TV. A closer examination of real life behavior would reveal differences such as body posture perhaps, or maybe different speech patterns. On the screen, they speak in the same manner and with equal respect. In real life, there would almost seem to be an avoidance of contact of any kind at all, as if there were a discomfort in the presence of something, or an aversion. If they linger after the differently-colored earthlings separate, they might even hear a comment about them that would inform these alien observers that many of these Earthlings regard each other as beings belonging to different groups and wonder why they are not so portrayed on the TV, in fiction or on the news.
Are you tired of this exercise yet America? Does the idea of trying to see things through the eyes of our unknown observers bore you or is that merely unease that makes you want to walk away from this? You can go back to the world of the screen. It’s familiar, comfortable, and most importantly, unreal. Much as you’d like to you can’t switch off life. But you can sink into the realm of the screen and pretend you can. You can walk out on real life anytime and have the voices tell you what has happened without ever letting it concern you because if it gets too much, you can switch the channel, turn it off and never have to deal with reality and that is the way you go through life if you can call it that. Shut out anything you don’t want to deal with. Dismiss it with the click of a button, or avoiding the subject. When having the like-minded people on the newscast tell you what to think isn’t enough, you may want to discuss the unpalatable subject with like-minded people at work, trying to convince yourself that your position is right, or would be if enough other people agree, and if that doesn’t work either you can fall back on your favorite solution of all. Blame the victim.
We all know that the victims of police violence are never being wronged. When it’s a protestor, it’s always obviously the protestor’s fault, and if you don’t believe that, the news will tell you it is, either by interviewing a policeman on the scene who tells them so or by the relaying the message of a police spokesperson who says so. It’s always ‘necessary force’ when unarmed people get injured by the police. Not for being violent protestors mind you, but just for being there. Despite a large police presence and these days many video security cameras, none of the protestors who smash windows or cars are ever caught, curiously enough. Those mask-wearing agents of destruction always manage to get away, but hey, one protestor is just as guilty as another right? It must be. The news would point it out if it weren’t, would it? So don’t worry about it or change the channel, they’re guilty and it’s their own fault.
Except it isn’t. Life isn’t like a television drama, comedy or even the televised news. And much as you’d like to, you can’t really shut it off at will. So at some point you’re going to have to make a decision on how to deal with it, and trying to turn life into the easy-to-accept version the like-minded people on CNN or FOX News does not, will not and cannot work in the real world.
The police are intentionally, needlessly and with malice of forethought killing Americans. Not the Americans you know. Not the descendants of Europeans who came here and wiped out the real Americans and took their name for themselves. Not the Americans you pictured in your heads at the top of this essay when I spoke to America. I mean the people you refer to as African-American or Mexican-American or whatever pretext you use to refer to all those you forcibly group together and call sub-Americans, not-quite-complete Americans, those terms you use to deny them full equality as human beings while deluding yourselves that you are being better than those Southern Rednecks who outright use those other terms you would never use. They are Americans!
If anyone who was born in the U.S.A isn’t American then you’re not American, white boy! You can’t deny your responsibility to your fellows on the basis of skin color and not be a racist, so stop pretending. If there were two white victims of police brutality that we’ve seen on video in the time period that we’ve seen five murders of minorities, three at most, the news would be making different statements. Perhaps even asking some pertinent questions. Such as is this the state of America today? Is this part of a larger pattern? If these are just the ones we’ve seen on video and represents a minority of police activity, how many of these occurrences are we not seeing? But if they’re hyphenated or not quite true Americans we don’t have to face these uncomfortable questions. We can ignore it. Change the channel. Shut it off.
Two policemen were killed the other day. It was most likely in response to not-guilty verdicts in cases of armed people having killed unarmed people. The people on both sides are considered to belong to groups. One of profession, another of color. One of choice. Another being forced upon them. They can be forced because they are outnumbered. And because those that outnumber them also fear them, they must be careful and not betray their group by doing something crazy. Like speaking too loud. Getting noticed. Acting equal. If they don’t watch it, they know what will happen. Just look at what happened to those who didn’t. And so they do their best and try to keep out of your life and keep to their inferior existence. And then you don’t let them have that anymore. They get shot and killed anyway. And you don’t even acknowledge it. It’s a harmless statistic. A ‘tragic situation’. Turn the TV off.
That didn’t solve it for them though, did it? Nor did it solve anything for those police officers. Perhaps you need to turn the TV off and leave it off, America.
And acknowledge the aliens amongst you.