Boogeyman- a common allusion to a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults or older children to frighten bad children into good behavior.
Red, white, and blue lights flash in two separate neighborhoods. In neighborhood one, the children continue to play, they smile and wave at the drivers cruising beneath the lights, who smile and wave back. The Andy Griffith theme song seems to blast full volume across the subdivision, whilst the lessons learned from that wise old sheriff play in parent’s heads. Knowing that these people are around to protect and serve them is a weight off of their minds. No one will hurt their children while these guys are around, they are the quintessential good guys. They are a heavenly mix of Andy Griffith, John Mcclain, and Jim Malone, always doing what’s right for the people.
When the children of neighborhood one come in from playing and ask about the lights and the men beneath them, the parents can proclaim with total honesty that they are here to help you when you’re lost you go to them, tell them your name and address and they’ll get you home. Be grateful for them, they’re our heroes in blue, always have been. You can have a full out pumpkin riot, burning cop cars and not have to worry my child. You’ll be fine.
In neighborhood two the scene isn’t quite as picturesque. The same lights flash, the same drivers peer through the window. But this time the children flee, jumping fences, leaving their toys where they lay. Parent’s heads are filled with grotesque images as old as The Good Ship Jesus and as fresh as the loose cigarettes still burning on the asphalt. One mother may recall a San Francisco cop saying it’s okay to kill black people as “It’s not against the law to put an animal down,” before pulling their child indoors. Another father may recall the hundreds and thousands of lynchings throughout the United States aided and abetted by the police. And yet another would recall the recent shooting of a little boy named Tamir Rice gunned down for playing in the park. And another still would recall a woman named Rekia Boyd, being shot and killed for no reason while the cop who did it walked off a free man. When these guys roll through, their children are in danger, their wives, husbands, and daughters are in real danger. They are to be feared, but unlike the tales of the monster under the bed others may tell, this monster is real, and can kill with no consequence.
They must tell their children to do so many things to walk away with their lives from an encounter with these men in blue. Don’t sag your pants, don’t raise your voice, don’t move quickly, don’t wear that shirt, effectively micro policing an entire group of people. And even then, they may still be shot and killed. And what happens when Blacks know their rights and react with intelligence, rightful anger at an officer’s blatant disrespect for their constitutional rights, and refuse to comply with illegal demands? Well…Sandra Bland.
These differences are why white people always ask “well why did he/she run”, and black people always say “of course he/she ran.”
The difference between the two neighborhoods is, of course, racial, the first being white and the second black. But it’s more than “just” the skin tone. It’s the history that has been caused by the vilification and criminalization of that extra pigmentation in their skin. Because this country and its infrastructure were built with the idea that black people weren’t human, and darker-skinned people were the enemy, the intuitions meant to protect and serve only do that for a certain few while targeting and attacking all the rest.
Social conflict theory states basically that the more powerful groups use their power to exploit the groups with less power. We can see this currently with the immense wage gap between those of the 1 percent of 1 percent and the rest of the country. In the beginning though, the power structure was a caste system set by not only wealth, but skin color.
Imagine a society set up by poor people. A country founded by those who had nothing. Well laws would be different. They’d probably have something in there about sharing, about caring for someone who needs help. But a country founded by the wealthy would have more about protecting their own wealth. Nothing wrong with that, but replace that wealth with skin color, things get a bit more problematic. Add in the fact that after a huge civil war you’ll want these people to be functioning, contributing members of your society without giving them any recompense (land, money, or even trying to change public opinion) for what’s happened to them…and you’ve pretty much made it almost impossible for that to happen on a grand scale.
Due to being seen inherently as the enemy, black families must teach their children not to embrace the police but fear them. Black families don’t need a fictional boogeyman, the police fill that role impeccably.
Often times members of white liberal society who genuinely want to help ask “why so angry? Why the violent rhetoric” without understanding that the anger and rhetoric used is a symptom, merely a result of the society that creates racist policing practices. Police, politicians, doctors, writers, we are all born into a racist, patriarchal, homophobic, transphobic society.
This is the one time I’ll say this, it’s not your fault you became a racist, it’s not your fault you became a misogynist, it is not your fault you became transphobic or homophobic. It is your fault that you are STILL one. Your fight to remain firmly inside your privilege bubble is not a victimless act. It’s killing people as we speak.
The doctor that thinks twice before operating on a Trans man or woman just lost the second they needed to save a life because religion taught them that this is an abomination. The cop who barrel rolls into a group of teenagers and pulls his weapon on unarmed children because he’s been taught that black people are inherently dangerous through various media outlets. The young children who think it’s funny to beat up homeless people. They do this because of the deafening silence that gives them the go-ahead. They do this because the fight to keep the status quo makes them believe ideas about minorities that should’ve been thrown away with the dismantling of Jim Crow. But because this fight to keep everything the way it is has been going on for so long, ideas and opinions are formed with no basis in reality, which in turn literally kills people. This unwillingness to admit that something is terribly wrong with this society is what haunts the fight of each generation for justice and equality.
And therein lies the real struggle. I had a teacher that always stressed the importance of how a group of people is regularly portrayed on television. For many this seems insignificant, “it’s just TV right”? But please if I may… In many places of this country, people live in groups that are mirrors of themselves and their parents. We are still very much a segregated country. So there may be a white person who goes their whole life form birth to 18, never interacting with a black person. Never getting to know an Asian or Native American, transgendered person, or a homosexual person. So where does this person get their ideas on how these people act? Why films and television of course. Now this person sees the slanted media coverage showing black crimes over and over while not showing the reality that whites are more likely to commit dangerous crimes like rape and armed robbery. So they think, this is the real danger, THEY are the real problem, and when they go online and hear blacks talking about hard facts and statistics they say “no I’m the real victim” and then they walk into a black church full of misplaced self-righteous bullshit anger and shoot 9 people. Or they join a fraternity and chant gleefully about a “nigger not joining SAE.” (That fraternity has produced some very influential members several senators, governors, and even a President.) Or they hunt black people in Mississippi. Or they join hate groups and infiltrate police ranks. Or they become Senators, Congressmen, Police officers, and have all of these prejudices and pass laws to “control blacks”. These politicians aren’t feared like the cops are, but they are the ones that facilitate the means for the boys in blue to be monsters in the black neighborhood. They pass drug laws because drugs make Blacks think they are as good as whites. Because it’s more than blacks being portrayed as less than human, it’s about blacks being portrayed as problems. The problem is “they want our women”, see Birth of a Nation, the problem is they are taking over the country see the Charleston shooter, the problem is they aren’t capable of greatness see every whitewashed Egyptian/biblical film.
Now to the work. See the call for justice in cases of police brutality against minorities, is really a call to just say, hey you can’t do this and get away with it. This is very important to note because we haven’t even gotten to the point where people are saying stop doing it. It’s just being asked that those who do it pay for it so that maybe, others won’t do the same.
It’s about changing the culture, changing society, it’s hard and easy at the same time. All it would take are classes that are taken seriously, changes in media to reflect the diversity of character that a group of people truly can encompass. How many more people have to die before our humanity is recognized and respected? It’s been going on for too long, the stakes are high and there are solutions, but who’s listening? At this point it probably doesn’t matter, it seems Black America is demanding a change and an impasse will come, the result of it, is up to all of us who refuse to give in to the boogeyman.
Sources: FBI, Society Pages, NY times, Gawker, LA times, Youtube.