We don't want your pity. We just want your understanding.
I spent the last day on a mountain, away from the noise, ignorance, and emotion that generated from the Mike Brown verdict and commotion in Ferguson. And because I wanted to have tact in my message, what so many of you lacked in yours, I waited so I could respond with understanding and not just emotion. So despite those who are fed up with this coverage, because your privilege leads you to believe that anything outside of your mental picket fence isn’t important, sorry I’m not sorry to add to the masses. It’d be irresponsible of me to not use my platform and audience to try and shed light, hope, and perspective to those I know both in America and across the world as to just why this IS significant, and maybe then you’ll understand the cries of anger and help from these people.
I’m just asking, almost begging, for you to think just a little harder the next time you voice an opinion so strongly against something you’ve never experienced. You can’t see why “we” are so angered by this, but try and put it in the context of a man who will never truly understand the labor pains of a woman during childbirth, because they CAN NEVER and WILL NEVER deal with it themselves.
This is how I feel reading your “get over it” and “he had it coming” comments. Because as a minority of a minority (an African-American in Europe), no matter where I go, I have to be cognizant that there’s an extra effort I have to make to prove myself as anything other than whatever preconceived notions people might already have of me. This is the “White Privilege” people are so dismissive about. The fact of the matter is that the black skin color is still a THREAT to people who don’t know a person outside of their physical characteristics and predetermined stereotypes. I have to live with that no matter where I travel, and just because I’ve accepted that, doesn’t mean I’m okay with it. And you shouldn’t be either.
It’s surreal flipping through channels here with live broadcasts from England, Spain, Asia, Russia, China, and America and seeing FERGUSON as the leading story despite there being much more violent protests in Hong Kong, but why would the American media want you to know that? Why give people perspective when they have you by the leash and collar with their every statement and live video feed of all those “thugs” everyone already had their mind made up about anyway?
What the media are so good at doing time and time again, is getting us to believe that we must pick a side to an issue, and that if the issue happens to involve people of two different races, then you really better pick a side before your right/left wing friends flood your Facebook news feed reminding you where your loyalty should stand. Vandals in Ferguson are being called “criminals” and “animals” but when the same actions are done by another race in celebration of a World Series, NCAA championship, or major sporting event, we can use liquor and our love of sports to justify that? Do you see how there is so much inequality and one-sidedness to the behavioral ramifications of society?
To the internet trolls, reading your comments like “well those looters are acting like the apes they are” or my favorite “why don’t we send them back to Africa, they’re no longer needed here.” *Sigh* Are you done laughing yet? Have you accomplished all your heart’s desires with your mockeries? There are deeply rooted issues from what black people have endured in this country. They enslaved us. They taught us how to hate each other. They treated us as less than human (2/3rds of a human, if you want to talk politically). You think everyone was celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation? No. Hate kept being passed down despite our various strides of progress. Bigotry begets bigotry. And as long as this “us against them” attitude is relayed from our ancestors and yours, these types of issues will never go away.
Black people, I want to talk to you for a second. We can’t expect people to empathize with us when they still struggle to understand us. They pick and choose parts of our culture that they want to include in theirs. Our rhythm, our athleticism, our music. People love and idolize this about black people, yet in our shortcomings, they turn a blind eye and don’t even try to reason with the understanding of our societal disparities. But we will never win compassion of others by validating stereotypes. Fighting fire with fire only pushes the agenda the media want. There will always be a racial divide if we don’t find more ways for the nation and world to not view us as merely a threat to society.
Our generation has been given more opportunities than ever to better ourselves as a race and negate the image people have of us. But it’s damn near impossible to have justice work for us when we continue to do an injustice to our own people by not nurturing and rearing more leaders and positive role models in the black community. We have to stop being selfish in our actions. It’s unfair, but the next time you do something, realize that you’re not only representing yourself, but an entire body of a community and race. Help us look like progressive beings. Help us elevate to the level we’re capable of being at.
We need each other more than ever to prove to this nation and our world that we deserve to be treated like the next person, but more importantly, stop putting ourselves in situations where our lives might be compromised to begin with. Obey rules. Don’t commit crimes. Be law-abiding citizens! Be more concerned with PROGRESS than PRIDE in this fight for equality. Own up to our shortcomings as a community and let’s do better to show that crimes created BY and AGAINST us will come to an end.
For those who agree with the verdict, that’s your prerogative, and arguing over the “facts” that neither you nor I can validate with our own eyes is pointless. I will instead suggest you take a look at the worldwide protests from every corner of the globe and see millions of others of all colors expressing their outrage. That alone should open your eyes to the fact that not JUST black people see something wrong with this.
To the people who tell “us” to stop living in the past, we will do that as soon as you stop living in ignorance. History not only repeats itself, but it shapes and dictates our future. How can we understand our present without understanding our past? Being second-class citizens forever is not the dream MLK died for. Slavery took away so much of the black culture and that led to a psychological deterioration in the process. It created hate amongst our own people. So because it didn’t affect you the way it did others, it need not be spoken about? False. We are moving on, but we aren’t moving up. That’s a problem.
To the looters, please STOP THE MADNESS! You’re propagating the unnecessary fear people already have for our skin color. You’re doing THEM a favor by validating their arguments with your stupidity. And THAT is something I can’t blindly support for the simple fact we share the same prejudices in society.
Obviously my strongest emotion is sympathy for The Brown family. And the harsh criticism they’ve been handed due to the fact their son was a product of what many black communities are struggling with. My second emotion is a mix between anger and disappointment with people who are incapable of having more understanding for a circumstance instead of blindly judge it from their privileged pedestals.
I’ve seen and done a lot in my 24 years to shape this kind of thinking and I realize it might not be popular with everyone. I have some friends who have tactfully addressed this and I appreciate the hell out of you guys. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the verdict, putting your differences aside to address the issue head on while maintaining respect for all parties involved was like finding gold on my news feed. It warmed my heart. And you’re the type of people I strive to surround myself with and I thank you for that.
Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. I have love for the peaceful protestors who are doing everything in their power to push a positive agenda despite the media’s miniscule coverage of that. Lest we forget, we’re a country founded on oppression and violence, yet there’s only one race that continues to bear the weight of that label. By all means, have an opinion. From what I’ve heard, it’s not illegal… yet. But when debating an issue, make sure you’re starting and basing the argument around facts and undeniable truths.
It’s my job as a global citizen and traveling representation of America, to do my part in developing and challenging perspectives that go beyond what someone has experienced in their life. And not let the MEDIA do what they stand for: Make Everyone Debate In Anger. As Americans, we’re on a global stage. The world is watching. I stand with the Brown family for justice, equality, and fairness both in the black community and all others who feel are wronged in this country due to prejudices made by law enforcement. I said this before and I’ll say it again. One nation, under Canada. With liberty and justice for some.
My only credibility here is in being a human who cares about the well being of Americans as a whole, which starts when all Americans are treated as whole.
God bless America.
Gloria Atanmo is an American travel blogger, overseas basketball player, English teacher, photographer, and professional risk-taker currently living in Barcelona, Spain. She's a lover of life and all things wine and Nutella. Follow her adventures on Instagram: @glographics