“The System Is The System.”
(AllHipHop Opinion) I was half watching a show on Netflix. “Collateral” is the name. I really wasn’t into it, for whatever reason. Perhaps, my brain was still thinking about the unarmed Black man that was shot 20 times in his own backyard, because police officers thought his cellphone was a gun. Or a tool bar. Suddenly, a character on my television says, “The System is the System. Disliking it isn’t going to change it. It carries on regardless of how you feel about it.” My brain decided it would not carry on like nothing happened.
Now, I just want you to know…I am writing this in a stream of conscious. This means I am not overthinking it. I am not over editing it. And I am certainly not over writing it. I’m just going to express how I feel at this particular moment. Let me share how my year started, January 1, 2018. I got pulled over by a police officer. He told me I didn’t signal for two seconds before changing lanes. I immediately saw where this was going. And then the other officer pulled up. That’s when I got scared. Actually, when he said, ”You’re not in any trouble” is when I got scared. Yeah, I got scared then.
I have a daughter. I also have a brother, mother, sister-in-law and several godsons. I also have a pair of newborn nephews that I want to watch grow up. A few really, really close friends. Stephon Clark had family too. Still, he was shot 20 times in front of his family – in his grand parents backyard. He lived with them. Police were looking for an individual that was breaking into cars in South Sacramento. Apparently, Clark fit the description or was that person. Police in a helicopter told ground troops on that they saw a man in a backyard with a “tool bar.” What they “saw” was the 22-year old’s cellphone, which police on foot said was a gun.
Now, Clark was no angel. Neither am I. But, according to the police, I had just broken the law by not signaling for a couple seconds before changing lanes. They suspected me of something. I just didn’t know what. Eventually, they said my car was registering as stolen. The main policeman, a younger man, became more and more agitated. The other – also young – was calm. He and I talked a bit. He even offered me to sit in the back of his car to get out of the cold. I declined, letting him know I had never in my life been in the backseat of a cop car. I also let him know I was scared. He asked why. I looked at him like, “You know why.” I was also cold. By this time, I was outside of my car. I had been searched like the guys that I drove by so often. Those suspects were almost always “guilty” when you ride past. They were also almost always Black men. Two cars or more meant you were getting arrested in my mind.
However, I was not. After about 45 minutes of questioning, they “let me off” with a small ticket. I considered going to court to protest, but I opted to pay the ticket and “move on.” I felt it was a bad omen for this New Year, 2018. Why are we – in 2018 – still able to protect officer’s as if they are angels. I am not going to pretend, I didn’t think I could be murdered. I didn’t even get my hat when I began to get cold. I knew that even picking up a hat in freezing cold weather could result in an officer admitting he shot me out of fear or my moves could be perceived as aggressive. People and circumstances like Alton Sterling, Philado Castile and even Mike Brown and 13-year old Tamir Rice raced back and forth in my head like ghosts of caution. Like I said, I have a daughter and part of my job in raising her is to stay alive to raise her.
I wasn’t even going to mention this story until today – until seeing the repeated memes, texts and social media posts about Stephon Clark. Ultimately, it took a weird message in a TV show that got me to this place. “The System is the System. Disliking it isn’t going to change it. It carries on regardless of how you feel about it.” How did we get here? Where Dylann Roof is allowed to murder Black church members and still get fast food on the police’s dime? Where a serial bomber targets Black people and still be a suspect? George Zimmerman is alive. Countless Black and Brown lives are lost in gun violence and also ignored. And it goes on and on – back to lynch mobs, the KKK and pervasive systemic racism.
It also crossed my mind: “What if these blatant, unrelenting, persistent extinction acts were designed just to pummel protest into desensitized, decentralized victims of racism?” The fact is: the stress of police brutality kills too. The truth is outrage is exhausting. Racism is a disease that preys on everybody. I eventually turned off “Collateral” for Oliver Stone’s docu-series “The Untold History of The United States.”
Somehow, seeing the horrific acts of racism, imperialism and genocide of others in Stone’s documentary…reassured me. Why? I don’t know, but I managed to finish this piece.