Archives for posts with tag: ImplicitBias

Arrested for Justice!

They explained what to do and what not to do. Everything seemed so “organized.” It all made sense. I thought I understood how it was supposed to go. But my heart still pounded and my throat had a lump. They warned us about prior convictions. My mind kept wondering if I had any convictions…or even had been arrested. I couldn’t remember whether or not I had. My deep-seated distrust in the criminal justice system as a black, gay, HIV-positive man was beginning to show. All the reassurances in the world could not soothe the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.

Prior to today my record was squeaky clean, besides the traffic tickets that keep being hailed as the example of “no big deal.” But reminded me of all the times I thought I might die from a traffic stop. And all the times I thought I might be criminalized because of my sexuality. And all the times my HIV status has been used to dehumanized my black body. Yet, I chose to be arrested.

I chose to be arrested alongside the Missouri state delegate. He is a white, straight, food service worker earning $9 per hour. He is forced to chose between child support payments and healthcare. Because 50% of his pay goes to child support. He is forced to live without healthcare. Our lives could not have been further apart, but we chose to be arrested together today.

It wasn’t that bad. We chanted. We sang. We were warned. We surrendered. What I had feared all my life and sworn to avoid, was not that bad. And maybe that’s the problem. Just maybe the fear of being arrested keeps us from doing the work of justice. Perhaps the system is set up to keep the people just complacent enough to do nothing.

As I sat there on the grassy Capital lawn, behind police tape and steel barricades with like-minded strangers for justice, I thought about those who have not organized, those who did not know what to do. As I looked down at my plastic handcuffs, relieved that they were not real, even though they were….it was difficult not to act out. The meekness of the police was provocative. Their soft spokenness, their generosity of spirit up juxtaposed to the violence of state sanctioned poverty made it difficult to comply. The violence suffered by the least of these, created a deep-seated rage, prompting me to cry out.

What do we want? Justice!

When do we want it? Now!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we don’t get it? Shut it down!

If we – don’t – get – it?

Shut it down!


I find this very, very hard to believe. It can’t not be unintentional, right? What if it’s intentional? What if it’s not an accident? What if we are being strategically targeted? We very well could be? How can we not be? Every time it happens, I ask myself, “How does this keep happening?” Sanford. Ferguson. Staten Island. Brooklyn. Cleveland. Baton Rouge. Hempstead. Salt Lake City. Baltimore. Tulsa. Charlotte. These are just the few that I could remember without doing a proper Google search. In the Northeast. In the South. In the Midwest. All ages. Both sexes. Many classes. One race. BLACK. I find this very, very hard not to believe. It can’t not be unintentional, right? If Isis is strategic, and if the west and south sides of Chicago are premeditated, then these recurrent acts of implicit bias might just be explicit. Perhaps there is a premeditated plot, a concocted network of rogue officers who have orchestrated a system of organized violence against BLACK life. What if that is what it is? Really! I mean it. What if the trigger happy policeperson is really just the policeman predestined to exterminate a BLACK life on any given Sunday, just the policewoman preordained to pick off Wednesday’s child playing in the park. This very well could be? How can it not be? In Ferguson and Baltimore and the Jim Crow South, the Justice Department has exposed patterns of racial discrimination in police agencies. Yet still, my assumption is that it is systemic and unintentional, that the common ways and means and ends are all coincidental. Over and over and over and over again we see video evidence of unarmed BLACK men and BLACK women being assaulted and executed by reckless white police officers. Even as a BLACK man I find it very, very, very hard not to believe that the same senseless insanity committed over and over and over and over again is not just another accident. I find it very hard not to believe that it is a mishap, that it just might possibly be intentional. It can’t not be unintentional, right? What if it is? I find this very, very hard not to believe.

downloadAgain??? Yup! Again!!! On Saturday and again on Monday. On Saturday an Islamic man did it. On Tuesday a white policewoman did it. I live in New York…and I am a BLACK gay man. I depend on subways and sidewalks to get me where I need to go. As a New Yorker, my eyes and ears are alert to the sights and sounds of the next terror attack. As a gay man, I am casually vigilant of how the movements of my hips and the flips of my wrists put me in harms way. As a BLACK man, I keep my head straight, my voice low, and my actions steady as I pass the policewoman and the policeman who cruise my gentrified Harlem hood, as it is unclear as to who exactly they are protecting. As a BLACK gay New Yorker, I must confess I am more terrorized by police, than by Islam or homophobia. It feels as if I am more likely to be killed by a cop for being BLACK, than by radical American fundamentalism for being gay, or by radical Islamic fundamentalism for being American. I can walk straight to deter being gay bashed. I can practice vigilance to deter a violent act of Jihad, but what can I do to prevent state-sanctioned police brutality targeted toward my BLACK body. Being BLACK is a terror threat. While the government warns us about the dangers of traveling abroad as American, it fails to warn us about the dangers of traveling in America as BLACK. As the presidential nominees spew vile rhetoric against Islam and prepare a platform for fighting terror, I need a platform for being BLACK. What precautions must I take to prevent an attack against my BLACKness? What threat level color code alerts me of the dangers of being shot during a traffic stop? How high must my arms be raised? How low the color level of melanin in my BLACK skin? What must I do to escape the terror of being attacked by a cop for being BLACK?