Revolutionary head gear

a-pink-knitted-beanie-known-as-the-pussy-hat-became-a-symbol-of-solidarity-among-protestors-knitting-parties-organized-in-the-weeks-before-the-march

Trump said it. The media went crazy with it. Women were pissed! Insulted. How dare he be so vulgar. How dare he reduce us to our genitalia. Nasty bastard. But then, something changed. Women started using it. Making signs about it. Making hats. I have to admit I was a little taken by surprise.

Maybe it’s a little like Black people using the ‘N’ word. Reclaiming and recasting. Maybe. But let me offer some insight on that: it doesn’t always work. It can be divisive. Just ask Black people. Whenever you take a pejorative and try to make it a slogan, you can never quite shake the negative. That’s why it was a pejorative in the first place. Remember where it came from.

There are various theories of the “P” word’s origin, but we didn’t have anything to do with any of the definitions, almost none of them good. It reduces us to our genitalia. It can be dangerous. When men started calling our vaginas the “P” word, it wasn’t because they respected us.

Look, I like my pussy as much as anyone else. I want my daughters to have access to birth control if they want it, abortion if they choose it. But let’s consider the things Trump and his minions are planning and poised to screw up  — public education, foreign policy, housing, the environment, income, jobs, healthcare (in general, and for women, specifically). It’s all about priorities, and in the grand scheme of things, where does pussy fall in the triage?

It depends on who you are. If your kids are in public school, you live in public housing, you have federal job or your skin is anything but White, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s coming that’s going to hurt you — not potentially but for damn sure. If you don’t have those problems, pussy comes first. If you do, well, pussy has to get in line.

When Trump called Mexicans rapists and murderers, said a judge would be biased because “he’s a Mexican” and championed the wall, where were you? He wasn’t talking about you. When Black women, men and children were being shot, shackled, dragged, tazed…where were you? Wasn’t your tribe. While Black women are fighting to get jobs to earn 65 cents on the dollar and Latina women 58 cents, where are you? Mad about 78 cents.

Of all the platforms you could choose, you chose to focus on pussy. Truth is, it’s your womb they’re after. But once again, even when you called yourself marching against them, as White women you followed right in White men’s footsteps. But who did they go after first? Underprivileged women around the world. Who will be hurt most when they go after Planned Parenthood? Poor women. If you’re going to scream about pussy, consider whose pussy is really at stake. Then ask what we really care about.

As a Black woman, I don’t like to talk about pussy in public. Because you see, that’s all I’ve been to White America anyway. My sex. As an archetype, I’m either sexless Mammy, oversexed Jezebel or  sexually emasculating Sapphire. Yes, Black women care about reproductive rights, but we’re less concerned about someone grabbing our pussies than we are being able to afford the healthcare to take care of them. We’re more afraid we’ll lose education, housing, protection from the police. Honestly? Our pussies are the least of what we’re worried about.

That’s ok. We know this is your movement. You can talk all you want about it being intersectional, but when pussy is the central theme, it really has nothing to do with us. Just look at those hats. How seriously, really, do you think White men are going to take someone wearing a pink knitted cap with ears? I’m sorry, but you may well have played yourselves. I’m sure there were some, but think hard — of the few women of color you saw at the marches, how many were wearing pink pussy hats? More likely, they were wearing a headwraps, hoodies, baseball caps or hijab. Wonder why?

If you’re looking for revolutionary head gear, there are better options. You could have chosen any of them, and if this were truly an intersectional movement you would have. Consider…

The Phrygian cap. 431px-columbiastahrartworkA soft, conical cap with the top pulled forward, associated in antiquity with people from Eastern Europe and Anatolia, including Phrygia, Dacia and the Balkans. Because it looks kinda like the pileus, a felt cap worn by emancipated slaves in ancient Rome, it stands for freedom and the pursuit of liberty.

Hijab197791_5_. Some might argue this headwrap embodies male domination, and they might be right. However,  many women wear it willingly as a symbol of their culture. Considering the anti-Islamic sentiment in America and the real danger it poses for women for wearing hijab (even if they opt for baseball caps), White women wearing hijab would have been a true show of solidarity. It would have made a real statement about intersectionality. Hijab got a poster. I don’t think the pusimg_0238sy hat will.

Headwrap: You probably thought Black women just wore headwraps to slay despite bad hair days. For most of us it means a lot more. Culturally, African women wear head scarves to ward off evil spirits. In slavery, Black women wore headwraps while they worked. In Louisiana, the obligation to have African women cover their hair rose all the way to legislation with Tignon law. But instead of being embarrassed, Black women wore head scarves as a sign of courage and unity. The unique way an African woman wrapped her head scarf was a way of holding on to her individual identity. We turned an object of oppression into one of empowerment. My daughter wraps her hair. I wrap mine. Warding off evil spirits? Simultaneously demanding respect for individuality and recognition of a unified community? I don’t know, but that sounds right for what you say you stand for.

Rebozo: Mexican women wear this long, flat garment many ways, but usually folded or
wrapped around the head and/or upper body. They use them to block the sun, keep warm,  carry babies and bundles. Soldaderas, women fighters who kicked ass in the Mexican Revolution used them to smuggle guns, ammunition and supplies.  That sounds pretty fierce, don’t you think?

Just picture it: millions of White women wearing African headwraps, hijab or rebozo. With respect (i.e., no embroidered labia or Hello Kitty versions). The police might not have been quite as accommodating, but that would have been a statement. That would have cast the protest in a different light. That would have scared the living hell out of some people. That is what intersectionality looks like. Instead, you chose pink pussy hats. Don’t be surprised if they don’t take you as seriously as you’d like.

 

Work in progress

wip_balance_of_water_and_fire_by_alviaalcedo-d8cv1vdI know I just posted all the reasons I wasn’t going to be marching, but I must say — again — I’m so glad all of you who are, are. What we face now is different in so many ways, one of which is the very thing I struggle with — the intersectionality. I’m trying to get there. It’s hard for me to say I’m not. Yet. But I’m working on it.

Why I won’t march (it’s me, not you)

 

I’m a woman and I’m mad. But I’m not marching January 21st. Not in DC, not in Atlanta. The reasons have nothing to do with what the women’s’ marches are about, but everything to do with what I am.

Let me say that again: It’s me. To make that point clear, let me start with saying why I think the marches are a good thing:

  1. They’re energizing. Lucy Barber – writer, historian, expert on marching — says marches energize and unify the people who march. That’s important. Women who may have never considered standing or stepping up have a way to do it now, in the company of thousands of kindred souls. Social scientists who study group dynamics point to the empowering nature of forward movement. There’s strength in numbers, and a march beats the hell out of a rally any day.
  2. They’re defining. Maybe you weren’t mad – until now. Or maybe you were mad but just didn’t know what about. The philosophical foundation of a march, its platform, articulates the problem. It creates a shared vision. In fact, that shared vision often is the difference between a march and a riot.
  3. They’re intersectional. Or at least these are. The organizers should be proud of the work they did to establish an inclusive platform. And they should be completely unapologetic about saying, “Bye, Becky!” to those who didn’t want to march when they found out just how inclusive the platform was going to be.

I’m glad these marches are happening, and thankful to have the kind of friends who will be joining the ranks.

But I’m not marching. I’m speaking as a Black woman, but I can’t speak for all Black women. That said, here’s why the marches aren’t for me:

  1. I’m demanding. In 1963, the organizers of the March on Washington listed 10 Demands. Black Lives Matter came out with six demands. Some may not like the word “demand” but, as Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” The platform for the women’s march is aspirational, even inspirational – but I need practical. I need a list of things somebody must say no to. Things within the abilities of the powers that be to deliver within a time frame that makes sense. Objective, defined, measurable outcomes. Otherwise, it’s just Kumbaya.
  2. We are (still) climbing Maslow’s ladder: You know that hierarchy of five needs? Well, thanks to slavery and its present-damaslowy legacy, Black women still struggle with the bottom four tiers, while most White women are marching in the name of the top one. And as Maslow posited, you must satisfy basic physiological and safety needs, then psychological belongingness and esteem needs before you can even think about self-fulfilling self-actualization needs. Black women are disproportionately poor, at physical risk, and struggling to love and love ourselves in a society that has, from the time we stepped off the boat, done everything it could to thwart that effort. As women, we may be heading in the same direction, but as Black women, we have a hell of a lot further to travel.

3. We’re still The Help. Ok, I know this is going to cause some cries of foul, but please remember, I’m speaking for me. The Women’s March platform says important things about the reality of women’s lives. It speaks honestly to traditional roles. That’s a real problem for Black women. Consider this plank:

“We recognize that women of color carry the heaviest burden in the global and domestic economic landscape, particularly in the care economy. We further affirm that… the burden of care falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women, particularly women of color.”

True. But the solution -“We must repair and replace the systemic disparities that permeate caregiving at every level of society” – is way too vague and doesn’t address the fact that systematic racism is what puts domesticity “disproportionately on the shoulders” of Black women (and yes, I know it’s about ‘women of color’ but I’m only qualified to speak about one color). That’s the problem with aspirational language. It’s fuzzy, and fuzzy logic makes for hazy solutions. In fact, you won’t find the word “racism” anywhere in the platform

4. It’s too soon. That intersectionality I applauded above? It’s good, but I’m not totally down with it. For one thing, as I’ve said before: Intersectionality is what others – especially White women – use as a rallying cry whenever they have a problem that requires critical mass. Suffrage. Women’s Rights. Hillary for President. Each time, Black women drank the intersectional Kool-Aid. Each time, we got Jim Jonesed.

balck-women-vote“Did we say we wanted the vote for women? Oh, yeah, we meant White women.” In Alice Paul’s Congressional Union’s 1913 suffrage parade, Black women had to march in a segregated unit. In fact, White women argued for the vote by saying theirs would cancel out the Negro vote. And yeah, the 19th Amendment franchised all women, but Jim Crow disenfranchised Black women soon after.

“Did we say we believed in affirmative action? Oh, yeah, to help White women get White men’s jobs and pay.” Multiple studies show the benefits of affirmative action for women in education and hiring are more likely to accrue to White women than they are to women of color, creating an imbalance with real effects on employment and earning later in life. Affirmative action works, but way better for White women. And Abby has the nerve to stay mad!

“And we’re with her – unless that means we or our husbands have to relinquish privilege. In that case, 52% of us are with him (just don’t tell anybody, ok?)” And now you want me to march? Ummm, no. Let’s give the feministic neuralyzer time to work, ok?

5. I’m not sure what I’d be marching for. In 1963, it was The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As far as I know, the only name now is the Women’s March on Washington. Firm grasp on the obvious. Women. Marching. On Washington. For a lot of stuff. Sometimes it’s possible to be too inclusive. Back to my point about specifics and demands—marches have clout when there are laws to change. In the ’60s, the people who could change the laws weren’t willing to be embarrassed on a national stage, and were concerned about what their peers and constituents thought. This rat’s den, led by the Rat King doesn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. So, what good is appealing to them NOT to do stuff they’ve been waiting their whole lives and sold what little souls they had to be able to do? Lucy Barber, that expert on marching I mentioned earlier, also said marches don’t change public policy. They rally the faithful, but they don’t convert the skeptical. And given what we’re dealing with right now, the skeptical look like the rational. You’re trying to change the resolved! If these were normal times, with normal politicians, marches might have normal results. There is nothing normal about this.

6. Shock value is, well, valuable. I don’t want anyone hurt, and probably nobody will be. At least not by the police. There will be permits, but for the most part, nobody is going to stop the organizers from doing anything other folks do. Cops and bikers won’t fear for their lives or stand their ground when White women march. Thus, it’s not likely anybody will be shocked to any great change of heart. When marches mattered, it was because they were unprecedented – in their visibility (TV was new, the Internet didn’t exist) and their brutality. I don’t wish that on anyone, but call me a glutton for punishment. I can’t seem to get my blood boiling for anything I’m not ready to shed it for.

7. I’m tired. Look, I understand how you feel. I still remember the first time I realized, womancry3“Hey, that shit is NOT ok!” and decided it would not stand. For Black people, the oh-hell-no moment is an inevitability, a matter of when, not if.  Most of us have been here before, live here now, and expect to be here as long as we live. From slavery to Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, Black people have been fighting the battles you’re now discovering since the day we got here. This is Reconstruction redux. I’m sorry, ya’ll, but I just don’t have the energy right now. Nor do I have the wide-eyed enthusiasm to believe any of this marching is going to help me or mine. It ain’t about me. This is about White women, who, for the first time, feel  they may be going backwards. You can’t go backwards far enough to be where we are right now.

I must ask – where were you recently when Black girls were being dragged by their hair and slammed against cars and walls, and Black women were being shot down in the streets and dying in prison at the hands of police persons unknown? Where were you when Republicans were systematically stripping Black folks – once again – of voting rights? Where were you when frat boys were singing racist ditties or donning Confederate uniforms to celebrate the old South? Some of you were starting to say, “Hey, that shit might NOT be ok!” — but you weren’t chartering buses to DC.

Look, I’m not saying there aren’t real problems ahead. You have some real problems now, and we are not your burden to bear. Just don’t get mad when we aren’t willing to bear yours – again.

All women should be frightened about losing reproductive rights. All women should be concerned about equal pay for equal work.  All women should worry when it’s ok to grab us by the pussy and get away with it. But please try to understand this – when you, as a person, have survived in a country that bred you like animals, sold and slaughtered your children, worked you from can see to can’t see for NO pay and told you your pussy didn’t even belong to you, well, Trump is a redundancy, business as usual, nothing new to see here. We are angry, but we are not surprised.

And me? I’m just really, really tired.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around and whine. Like each of us, I must figure out what my superpowers are. I’m not sure what mine are anymore, or what they need to be harnessed for and how. I would make a lousy politician, so that isn’t it. I’ll damn sure use my vote, but it’s going to take more than that. Trust me, I’m trying to figure out what to do with this mess. Nothing about it is normal, but everything about it is familiar. I may not be marching, but trust and believe I’m rooting for you. And I do believe there are points of intersectionality. We just aren’t there yet.

A message to my White women allies (but men can read it, too)

baldwin

 

By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about Pantsuit Nation, the “secret”  Facebook group. With 3,757,861 at last count, I don’t know that it’s much of a secret anymore, but one of the rules is we protect other members’ privacy.

So, I won’t post the post that led me to write this post, but I’ll just say it was a woman of color frustrated with some of the posts she’s reading from White women. I daresay many of you who have read my blog and/or survived my frequent Facebook friend purges are members of Pantsuit Nation. If so, forgive me for subjecting you to this twice. If not, it took me a minute to write this, so I’m sharing it here.


It has been very difficult to stand firm and push back against White women friends — and that’s plural — who have, despite their best intentions to circle the edge of the pit, slipped into the quicksand of White privilege in the wake of this disaster. So, please allow me to offer a few more thoughts to White women allies (at least to mine):

  1. If a woman of color – and I don’t speak for all WOC or all Black women – is engaging in serious discussion with you at this point, consider it the pat on the back you may be seeking. Most of us are tired and many of us gave up on these conversations a long time ago. When you meet one of us vociferously expressing her truths, know she may have been doing that for years and she may be weary of saying the same things with the same results. This election may have been the proverbial straw that broke her back and gave her cultural laryngitis. On the other hand, she may be one for whom this election was the kick in the ass that made her yell for the first time. If so, her voice had to claw its way out and her throat is raw. Either way, what now energizes and inspires you, saps and frustrates us. This isn’t new for us. The passion doesn’t mount with every indignity, because we’re used to more and we’re used to worse. So, no, we won’t give you pats on the back. Those of us with enough voice left will continue to speak. Sometimes, our words may be harsh. Woman up. Dismantling privilege means tearing it apart – one microaggression, assumption and entitlement at a time. Pat yourself on the back for doing it. Just don’t expect anyone else to. This ain’t that kind of party.
  2. I don’t speak for all WOC or all Black women. When we say something, we speak for ourselves. Please stop seeing us monolithically. Please respect the experience from which we speak. If you understood, we wouldn’t need this group. If you want to understand, you have to listen. It would be easy to take one voice and scale it up to all WOC. To discuss and argue with one person and get all the perspective you need. That ain’t the way it works. Yes, you’ll get frustrated – are safety pins in or out? Do I call you Black or African American? Can I say [insert touchy statement, question, word here] without getting my ass handed to me? The answer always is: It depends. It depends on whom you ask, on what day, after which fresh new hell. Sometimes we lose it, too. Remember you’re just getting to the place we’ve been since before we were born. I don’t – personally – think it’s helpful to be rude, but it’s damn important to be honest, and benevolent brutality has its place. Maybe we’ll apologize, maybe we won’t. But if we do and you can’t understand the anger and accept the apology, well, you’re doing exactly the kinds of things we get angry about and you say you don’t want to do. Woman up. This ain’t gonna be easy.
  3. Know we know this is hard. And we expect you to give up. I’m sorry; I know that’s not what you want to hear. But we’ve been through this with you before. From suffragettes to bra burning feminists, you were preaching to us about the importance of intersectionality long before one of you came up with a nice word for it. It isn’t a new thing for us. We wouldn’t be alive if we hadn’t figured out how to navigate all the selves we are. But every time we’ve let you tell us being a woman comes first, all our other selves get their asses kicked. You see, as White, straight women you stand at the vertex of the intersectionality. You don’t have to choose a path, so you stand there, directing the flow of identity. And you invariably send us all down the road most traveled – womanhood. But when it’s time for you to walk a different path – like this past election – either you stand still and direct or you head down that same well-worn path. So why should we assume this time is going to be any different? We want to believe you. We hope the rising tide of your own self-interest, fear and anger will sustain this movement and maybe lift us, too. But don’t expect us to take you at your word. Don’t ask us to understand the White middle class or rural class. One, we don’t care and two, they weren’t alone in making this mess. We did our job, and though we’ll suffer, too, this is the mess you made. So while it’s ok to ask for our help, please don’t assume you deserve it. Prove me wrong instead. Woman up. This ain’t the time for whining.

It’s not (just) because you’re racist

unfriendI kicked a whole lot of people to the curb during this election, especially toward the end. For all the Lord of the Rings geeks, remember the Battle of the Pelennor Fields when the dead men of Dunharrow showed up and cleaned house? There’s this scene at the very end of this clip (like 4:10) where they’re just wiping out whatever orcs and oliphants are left. That pretty much illustrates where I am with any Trump supporters still on my ‘Friends’ list.

And yes, I deleted them because they’re racist. And while that would have been — and was — reason enough, there actually are a few more reasons I Dunharrowed them. If you voted for Trump and are reading this, I just haven’t outed you yet. Not that you care, but please know it’s not just because you’re a racist, there are four other reasons I’ll unfriend you:

  1. You’re a racist. I know I already said that. But since it’s such a big part of my disavowal, it bears repeating. In case you’re confused, Trump is a racist. He didn’t ‘say those things just to get elected’. As far back as 1989, he was trying to incite a judicial lynch mob with newspaper ads against the Central Park Five. And he didn’t back down even when DNA proved he was wrong. Then there’s that wall (Mexicans), the screening (Muslims), and all us poor, rejected, uneducated, homeless  Black people. If you voted for him, you’re ok with that, which, by default, means you are that.
  2. You’re a misogynist. How does Trump abuse women? Let me count the ways. Actually, I won’t. There are too many. But that whole grabbing the P thing? Rape thing? Sufficient. If you voted for him, you’re ok with that, which, by default, means you are that.
  3. You’re anti-intellectual.  Your candidate is proud of the fact he doesn’t read books, but takes his own counsel because he has “a very good brain” and “has said a lot of things.”  Climate change? Not real. Vocabulary? Trump, 200 words. Koko the gorilla, 1,000. That’s about the vocabulary of a three-year old, which means Trump’s vocabulary is about that of a seven-month-six-day year old.  That doesn’t work for me. It’s ok to be stupid. It’s not ok to embrace being stupid. Ignorance is a condition. Stupidity is a choice. And I don’t play well with stupid. If you voted for him, you’re ok with that, which, by default, means you are that.
  4. You’re childish. Trump tweets. He’s whiney, he’s mean, he’s defensive. He’s two! Wait. No, he’s seven-months-six-days.  If you voted for him, you’re ok with that, which, by default, means you are that.

In a normal election, I would simply suggest we agree to disagree. But this election was no parts of normal. That’s actually our mistake: we keep trying to normalize this insanity. If you normalize crazy, crazy becomes the norm.

 

Intellectually, I know I should choose understanding over unfriending. I should try to keep a dialogue going because the one hope we have for change is people connecting and communicating. But, well, no. Like I said in my last post, trying to deal with people who think it’s ok to give America’s highest office to a racist mysogynist who is happy to be stupid because he’s two, is a waste of time, energy and sanity. And Goddess knows, I’m gonna need all three to get through the next four.

What I’m NOT fiddin’ ta do

unfriendmeForgive the vernacular. At times like this, it just comes out.

I should be writing a speech. I could be doing my homework. I would be working on my cure for racism. But I’m not, I won’t, I can’t.

I feel like Sisyphus today. Like nothing we say or do matters. It didn’t matter that Terence Crutcher had his hands up. He’s dead. It didn’t matter that Keith Lamont Scott was carrying in an open carry state. He’s still dead.

Remember: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign; no more water, the fire next time.” Charlotte is on fire; Tulsa might soon be again. I need to be doing my homework and job work, but right now, I’m doing this.

But let me tell you what I’m NOT fiddin’ ta do:

  1. Waste my time arguing with racists.  I should keep countering ignorance with knowledge. Refuse to let any racist say any thing that’s racist. I’ve done it for decades, and Facebook’s certainly a lot faster than writing editorials for The Davidsonian. But I’m not as young as I used to be. I don’t just have homework, I have pay-the-bills work. So, I don’t have time or energy to deal with people who, if they didn’t think racism was real before cell cams and dash cams proved otherwise, should now know  it is. Ignorant is not knowing. Stupid is ignoring what you know. And I don’t play well with stupid.
  2. Be civil. If I happen to break what-I’m-NOT-fiddin’-ta-do rule #1 (and I shall) I won’t be nice to you. Nice and mad as hell really don’t go together. Nice gets Black people killed. If you step out there with racist bullshit, I won’t hold back. I really did before.
  3. Try to see your side. There’s only one side. Ours. Why? Because it’s the only true one.  When Black cops, angry Black men and Black vigilantes start killing White people, White traffic victims and White children — and getting away with it — then you’ll have a story. I still won’t listen but I might at least be interested. Death trumps dialogue.
  4. Try to make you feel better. See what-I’m-NOT-fiddin’-ta-do rule #3.
  5. Bless your heart or wish you well. I did that recently. But I really didn’t mean it. In fact I never do. You have no heart.  If you’re doing well, somebody Black died at some point so you could. I’m unapologetically Black.
  6. Teach you what you need to teach yourself. Smarter people than me have written really good books that do a really good job of explaining why we riot, why we make everything about race, why we don’t want to hear about all lives mattering. One of these days, I’ll make a list. In the meantime, Google works really well.
  7. Stop making everything about race. You started it. I will when you do.
  8. Consider you my friend. You never were. You’re not now. You’re not going to be. And I’m not just unfriending you on Facebook. I’m unfriending you for life.
  9. Stop answering real questions from real friends. I have Black friends who disagree. And I get it, I really do. Some days I feel the same way. On those days, you won’t get answers from me. But you won’t get what-I’m-NOT-fiddin’-ta-do rule #2, either. Because if you’re still my friend on Facebook, if you’ve been my friend since I started this fight or decided to be in medias res, you’re trying to get it, even if you sometimes don’t. I understand you can’t. But I love and respect you for trying. You can ask me. You may not like my answers, but as long as you’re willing to listen and learn, I’m willing to tell and teach.
  10. STFU. Nikki Giovanni wrote this about writers: I know this profession does not easily lend itself to friendships. Our friends are either deathly afraid we will write about them or terribly bored at hearing the same subject discussed from all possible points of view. It’s what writers do — talk. So, to those I’ve written about or bored with my constant discussions about race, I’m sorry. Like Nikki, …if I was looking for somebody to hang out with I’d be the last person I’d choose. Everything is about race. If you don’t want to hear it, unfriend me and enjoy your head hole in the sand.

Hands at 10:00 and 2:00

I saw a video today. An unarmed Black teen shot, his body stomped as he was dying by cops who were pissed because he ran. He ran. They shot him in the back. But he was stealing a car.

Tell the truth…How many times have you seen a Black person shot or beat or arrested and thought to yourself, “Well, he/she was probably doing something illegal or suspicious or disrespectful.” And then, you thought about the Black people you know, compared them and thought, “Not like [insert well-bred Black friend’s name here], who would never be doing anything like that, anything to get stopped by the police.”

Know this: [insert well-bred Black friend’s name here], who you think has never and would never be stopped, shot or harassed, probably has been.

I have been.

In Davidson, one of the country’s most idyllic towns surrounding one of the country’s most highly selective colleges, I was confronted  – in a store – and asked to show ID, simply because I was shopping. The cop didn’t see my backpack, so he didn’t immediately know I was a student. In Davidson, that made a difference. Another time, I was stopped – walking down Main Street – simply because I was walking down Main Street. I don’t think I look suspicious. But do know I look Black. And that’s really all it takes.

I know men running whole companies and divisions today who were stopped by the police back then. Who are stopped even now. Just for walking and being. I have a friend who lives in a $2 million home and drives a luxury car but says he has to think about what he wears on Saturdays and how he drives through his own neighborhood. All my friends with sons – young men that will go or are going to some of the best schools in the country, who are straight A students, who speak multiple languages – tell them how to deal with the police if they are stopped. Hands at 10:00 and 2:00. Never reach for anything. Be deferential. Not even your license and registration, even if they ask. Not just polite but obsequoius. Because compliance can get you killed. Noncompliance, too. 

Being Black can get you killed. 

When I was stopped in college, I was rightfully, righteously indignant. I told the cop he was wrong. Refused to show my ID. Dared him to insist I do so. The fact that I talked back in a town where Black people who weren’t students and Black men who could have been dared not, is proof that I was clueless. Today, I tell my daughters – who are going to two of the top colleges in America, who are brilliant, who are gracious and kind, who are women — Hands at 10:00 and 2:00. Never reach for anything. Be deferential. Don’t let them take you anywhere isolated. Compliance can get you killed. Noncompliance, too. 

Being Black can get you killed. 

What do you tell your children when they go out? Don’t text and drive? Don’t drink and drive? I tell my daughters that, too. Right after I tell them this: Hands at 10:00 and 2:00. Never reach for anything. Be deferential. Compliance can get you killed. Noncompliance, too. 

Being Black can get you killed. 

So, when you see the next video of a Black person being shot in the back or at point blank range, kicked, pulled by the hair, slammed on the ground, tazed…don’t assume they’re doing anything more wrong than you have done.  Or that your children have done. Or that [insert well-bred Black friend’s name here] has done. Assume they were compliant. Or assume they were noncompliant. Just know that if they were Black, there’s a chance it got them killed.