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Posted by on Aug 31, 2014 in Featured, Race | 3 comments

Not just in danger but being the danger

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Jelani Cobb, a New Yorker writer who has been spending some time in Ferguson, writes:[icopyright one button toolbar]

Linda Chavez wondered on Fox News whether “the ‘unarmed teen’ mantra” really fit Brown, who was six feet four and nearly three hundred pounds and had been caught on video shoplifting—and, it perhaps bears repeating, was a teen, and was unarmed. Chavez was roundly criticized, but she was really only guilty of saying aloud what many others have thought. Whatever happened or did not happen between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson on a winding side street, in the middle of the afternoon, in a non-descript outpost on the edge of a midsized city, whatever we imagine we know of the teen-ager, the salient fact is that he did not live long enough to cultivate his own answers.

I spent eight days in Ferguson, and in that time I developed a kind of between-the-world-and-Ferguson view of the events surrounding Brown’s death. I was once a linebacker-sized eighteen-year-old, too. What I knew then, what black people have been required to know, is that there are few things more dangerous than the perception that one is a danger….NewYorker

“Being the danger” applies to most Americans — Americans of all kinds and colors. Think of the white men you have known who pride themselves on “being the danger.” Much of the violence is created by whites, often for our entertainment. Given the violence — our cultivation of violence in our laws and in our leisure hours — it shouldn’t surprise any of us if other people around the world cross to the opposite sidewalk, if only figuratively, when they see us coming.

Our guns, our NSA and our Department of Homeland Security and our militarized local police are props we have created and sanctified as important to our safety and integrity even though we have plenty of evidence showing they’re just the opposite. And how about them police? If you happen to be black and waiting to pick up your kids outside their school, you are in serious physical danger from the police.

When you add all this up, it’s hard to imagine how long it could take us take to achieve the kind of America we fantasize we have, an America with real freedom at whatever hour of the day on whatever rural road or in whatever city. Or in an elevator in a building in New York.

Cobb, a “linebacker-sized” black man, writes:

I know, to this day, the element of inadvertent intimidation that colors the most innocuous interactions, particularly with white people. There are protocols for this. I sometimes let slip that I’m a professor or that I’m scarcely even familiar with the rules of football, minor biographical facts that stand in for a broader, unspoken statement of reassurance: there is no danger here. And the result is civil small talk and feeble smiles and a sense of having compromised. Other times, in an elevator or crossing a darkened parking lot, when I am six feet away but the world remains between us, I remain silent and simply let whatever miasma of stereotype or fear might be there fill the void.

F— you, I think. If I don’t get to feel safe here, why should you? …NewYorker

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather

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