Racism Hurts

Gardner2I wanted to write something about the Michael Brown and Eric Gardner verdicts; however, I didn’t want to comment about the actual cases. We may never know what really happened during the Michael Brown incident. Eric Gardner was different because the entire incident was recorded but the result was still the same. Both cases says that it’s ok if cops automatically fear black males and it’s ok to use excessive force based on that fear. Neither case is ok because the cops probably would have acted differently if they were dealing with white males. The cops who beat Rodney King were indicted yet the cop who killed Eric Gardner will not face prosecution. Racism hurts and it’s hard to keep that anger and pain contained.
I experience racism for the first time during college. It wasn’t a violent incident. I did not involve police. It involved a professor telling me I was mentally incapable of completing his class. Until that moment, I thought racism was something that ended when my parents graduated college and obtained the great jobs which paid for my racist experience. In that moment, I learned that racism is still alive and well.
That one experience changed my outlook on so many things. I was angry, frustrated, confused, angry, hurt, sad, shocked, angry, depressed, resentful, and angry. There was so much anger and I didn’t quite know how to handle it. I screamed a lot. I listened to angry music. I worked out to burn off some of the energy. I talked to lots of people on campus. I instantly remembered exact quotes from the Autobiography of Malcolm X (before he completed his hadjj) and would recite them frequently to my white friends. I read a lot. I founded and got approval for a course concentration in African American Studies to help educate my peers about the history and culture of people who don’t look like them. I still was angry. I displayed a “black power” fist as I walked across the stage at graduation.
It’s been over 12 years since my racist experience and I’m still angry. I hated knowing that people will make assumptions about my abilities based solely on the color of my skin. I hated realizing that all the work of the 1960s to change the laws still didn’t do anything to change the opinions and actions of people. I hated that I couldn’t do anything to change the way people feel about racial disparities. I hated that I couldn’t hate the guy who thought I was inferior to him. I couldn’t hate him; I could only pity him for being so ignorant.
I can’t begin to imagine the anger of people who have experienced racism in a violent, direct way. I can’t express the anger for the people who have been wrongfully arrested, beaten, harassed, and targeted simply because of the color of their skin. I mourn for the families who lost their loved ones at the hands of the police. I can’t imagine the pain the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends of people who have been killed by police must feel. During my incident I was in a safe environment surrounded by love and virtually void of anyone who would challenge me in a hostile way as I processed my feelings. Who knows how I would have reacted if I was facing a firing squad and army tanks while I simply held a sign and marched with my peers. I can’t chastise them for how they choose to express their anger and I certainly won’t judge them if they act in ways that aren’t “peaceful.”

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One thought on “Racism Hurts

  1. Janese, I’m so glad I met you this morning at the Lee LWV. You are an inspiration! I’m so glad Fort Myers as someone like you and your partner in your law firm. I hope you can speak to our Democratic Club at Shell Point along with Dr. Glover on March 28. If not then, we’ll invite you to come at another time in the future. So glad I met you!!!

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