…and Eric Garner, too.
The news is designed to provoke anger, no question. I’m too young to know if news outlets were ever really interested in reporting as opposed to entertainment. I feel like there was more of a balance when I was a kid, but not sure how accurate that is. These days, though, it seems that the news exists to give us vapid information about celebrities, minimize major stories in favor of that vapid information, and then when they do discuss major stories, they do so in an insensitive manner than only serves to rile people up even further. I think I officially gave up on the news last year in the midst of the Boston Marathon bombing. I wasn’t down with the fear-mongering, nor was I OK with the perception (my perception, anyway) that the media was using a tragic incident that will scar people (physically and emotionally) forever for entertainment value.
Because of social media, many of us also live in a 24-hour news cycle. This means that when things happen, the news is IN YOUR FACE ALL THE TIME. For me, this fosters a bit of frustration. I certainly understand that bad things in the world happen 24 hours a day, but I’ve got my own garden that needs maintaining, friends I want to catch up with, a life still to be lived. The constant stream of injustice, as it were, provokes a fair amount of unnecessary anger/frustration/anxiety in me, and I’d imagine many others. Stepping away from that cycle may seem insensitive to some, but it’s necessary for me.
The death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York police (captured on a video I don’t have the guts to look at) and the execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, has provoked a great deal of anger in me. The lack of respect and humanity shown Black men in America makes me angry. The lack of awareness (or empathy) I see in a lot of non-blacks (even well-meaning ones) about the inequality shown Black men makes me angry. Injustice makes me angry. Injustice at the hands of so-called authority figures makes me angrier. Injustice at the hands of so-called authority figures who will likely get off scot-free for their transgressions (because, let’s be real here. This is America.) makes me explode. When I was a kid, I was close enough to the racially motivated Yusuf Hawkins killing in Bensonhurst and the Crown Heights melee in the early ’90s to feel the fallout from those incidents acutely. A decade later, the verdict in the police killing of Amadou Diallo infuriated me. I remember thinking “at least when I get older, we will have moved beyond this.” Wishful thinking, I suppose. ‘Cause 22 years after the L.A. cops got off, this bullshit is still happening.
Let’s face it–there’s no justification. None. Doesn’t matter if Michael Brown robbed a store, robbed a house, robbed a fucking bank. He was unarmed and non-threatening. The cops shot him, left his body in the street like a dog and are now terrorizing the citizens of Ferguson for protesting. Is this 2014 or 1964? I don’t get it…everybody should be fucking angry. What to do about that anger, though, I can’t tell you. I’m struggling with that myself.
I read a post on Twitter from Donald Glover, of all people, saying that internet activism was stupid. I’m semi-inclined to agree. While there are certainly folks out there with good hearts and good intentions whose intent is to spread awareness and affect change, just as many seem to be grandstanding, caring less about drawing attention to the situation than drawing attention to themselves. And they don’t think people can see through their bull. The “holier than thou” attitude most people have when they’re hiding behind a computer screen is a big reason that social media no longer has the allure it once had for me. As they say, it’s one thing to speak about it; another thing entirely to BE about it. Too many words, not enough action.
So, what to do with that anger?
I don’t know that passivity gets us anywhere. We can’t sit by idly and wait for things to change. But when you are one person, it’s hard if not impossible to make your voice heard in a sea of other voices. And frustrating when you realize that there aren’t very many people listening.
I used to sort of sneer at the lyrical content of John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change.” It seems to promote ignoring injustice in the hopes that one day the world will magically become a better place. I’m sure some of you reading may also question why I’m using a song by an “alleged racist” to underscore the points I’m making about racism (and for the record, I don’t think he’s racist. Also, I worry way too much about what other people think. I need to stop that.) But I certainly understand the feeling of helplessness that comes when something appears way too big for you to directly affect. So, the song has some resonance and might accurately state a portion of how I’m feeling right now.
I’m waiting, but also thinking. And hoping that there won’t be any more craziness, hoping that there are some teachable moments in all this, hoping the racist-ass cops in Ferguson get what’s owed them, hoping President Obama gets off his ass and brings some much-needed attention to this, and hoping that the anger felt by me and countless others somehow is able to manifest itself into positive change.
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