Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.

 

Growing up, I had no real concept of racism. I grew up in a mostly white town in Rhode Island where all my friends and I were super into hip hop. I would hear about racism and discrimination in music and I was moved by it, but I had never witnessed anything blatantly racist myself. That all changed when I started hanging out with guys from two towns over, some of which happened to be black. All of a sudden, many people in my town who worshipped black athletes and entertainers, had a problem with the people I was hanging out with. I, along with a few of my friends who happened to be dating black guys, were called N***** lovers by people we had grown up with and been friends with all our lives. I was shocked. As the years passed and I began having the race discussion more and more, I found that many people think it’s “disgusting” if a girl has slept with a black man. I met girls that had 50 or 60 bodies at 21 years old yet when I asked them if they’d been with a black guy they replied, “OMG Never! White guys won’t date you if you’ve been with a black guy!” This blew me away because the racism wasn’t always overt, but it was there. I began noticing an undercurrent in society, an unspoken feeling among many people.

As I began moving around and acquiring a wider variety of friends, racism became more and more apparent. I would see my sisters boyfriends getting harassed by police or arrested on frivolous charges. I saw and heard about many of my friends catching charges that were absurd. The most blatant racism I ever personally witnessed was in the Summer of 2008. I was at a bar near my hometown with a bunch of my friends. There was some small altercation with my best friends, involving a girl throwing a drink. The bouncer at the club thought my friend was doing something wrong and ended up picking her up and throwing her over his shoulder, exposing her entire ass to the crowd. As they carried her out, we all rushed downstairs outside to see what was going on. One of my black friends asked what the problem was, as officers standing nearby rushed over and slammed him on the ground. They continued to assault him while my other black friend filmed the incident on his girlfriends camera. Another office saw him and came and knocked him on the ground and stole the camera. I was hysterical and ran over trying to pull at the handcuffs and help my friends. I was freaking out but the cops just pushed me towards my friends and told them to get me under control. My friends were both arrested and taken to jail. The camera with the incriminating footage was never to be seen again. One of the guys, a very close friend of mine, was kicked out of school and lost his football scholarship because of the arrest. He went back down south and still hasn’t graduated to this day.

I witnessed firsthand how the ignorant actions of a few people can literally change the entire course of someone’s life. I did everything I could think of at the time, from contacting the police station to speaking with every person on the force I could get in touch with. Nobody seemed to care. It was just another case of something fucked up happening, and everyone sweeping it under the rug.

Sometimes I feel like mainstream America doesn’t get just how bad the problem has become. If you don’t witness it firsthand, it can be hard to believe that something like this could be allowed to go on year after year. While I don’t condone violence of any kind, I can understand how protests become violent when time and time again, the same injustices occur to a specific demographic of people.

A few months ago, I went to visit my friend Gerald. When I got to his house, only his cousin was there. I texted him a few times and got no response. It wasn’t like him at all. An hour later, he came in the house explaining how the people at CVS thought he was stealing and tried to have him arrested. He had 7 or 8 cop cars roll up, he was put in handcuffs, and then questioned extensively and publicly before he was let go. As a semi-public figure (USC Football Player), he was publicly embarrassed and made to feel like a criminal. I decided to do a little experiment, as these types of situations were becoming all too familiar to me. I began asking people about the craziest experience they had had with the police. I figured that if I positioned the people in the videos in black, white, black, white format that the differences would be astounding. The video above is what resulted. This is an extremely small sample, but I can guarantee that the results would be very similar on a larger scale.

Mike Brown and Eric Garner are not outliers in a just system. They are representative of every black man in a system that is largely discriminatory and protective of it’s own. I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for police who put their lives on the line day after day to protect and serve us. However, for those that abuse their power and participate relentlessly in the harassment and abuse of minorities, something must be done. I honestly believe that many people are not aware of the severity of this problem. It is my hope that videos like these will spark conversation and awareness. This conversation is an important one and it saddens me to see the cycle of police abuse, public outrage, then back to gossip and celebrities until the next horrible injustice occurs. Change occurs on a person by person basis and I think the more aware me become, the more we wake up, and the more we have courage to voice our opinions, the faster change will occur. Hate will never heal hate, only love can do that.

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