I meant to write about those artists from the Vermont Studio Center and instead events of the day interrupted those plans. I wanted to write that I feel very scared to be a black man, especially a poor black man, right now in this country. I’m terrified of the police! I think its part of the reason I’m afraid to drive a car. The events of the last week, the police shooting – killing really – of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in a suburb of St Paul. Mn; as well as the cowardly murder of officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa in my home town of Dallas Texas, have all made me feel this palpable sense of panic about my blackness. Its nearly existential the threat out there now for black men in particular. I’m very afraid also that our political leaders will bungle this opportunity to lead the nation through this anguish and heart ache. Many political leaders seem to be trying to thread this needle of supporting the dignity and just plain survival of black Americans without seeming too close to the Black Lives Matter movement while also showing lockstep support for law enforcement with caveats towards the need for reform. These have sounded like platitudes to me in the past and now sound utterly disrespectful to the lives lost.
Look at these people we’ve lost to senseless gun violence this week!
Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (Photos from NBC News)
From left, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa were killed in Dallas. (Photos from the New York Times)
I don’t pretend to have the answer to the issues of gun violence and police brutality and I am not the most eloquent spokesman regarding these subjects. I’m simply responding to the news. That’s why I’ve provided links to two blog posts on these issues I found in my Facebook feed over the last couple days. The first is a blog post circulated by my friend the artist Rebecca Allen and is of Emily Pothast writing on how whites might want to think about race in America. The second is from my friend and college classmate the brilliant Melvin Rogers whose own blog post on these three shootings I think very accurately encapsulates my feelings now of the grief those who are left behind in these events must feel.
Here are some quotes I like from each blog:
Overt racism is the handmaiden of this system, because it gives poor and/or rural white people — many of whom don’t know any Black people personally — a scapegoat, to keep them from correctly identifying the source of their oppression and thus putting an end to it.
But a subtler racism is also at work in the sense of entitlement that fuels the displacement of communities of color via gentrification, and in the lack of diversity in the economic sectors fueling all this development in the first place. These systems work together to produce structural racism; and by virtue of its systemic nature, no white person is completely innocent, no matter how much time we spend loudly absolving ourselves and bemoaning the “Idiocracy” of the communities we’ve left behind.
And Rogers writes about Diamond Reynolds, who was Philando Castile’s girlfriend, about seeing and filming his death:
And yet, we find ourselves holding Reynolds and other black folks, often women, to a higher standard as a prerequisite to be considered trustworthy, capable of accurately recounting the injustice that has just been committed against them. In doing so, we commit another form of violence, the reverberations of which most assuredly affects the mental health of black folks, reminding us, yet again, that what is expected of Black Americans is not expected of whites. It is demanded that we hold in and contain what should rightly be released: screams and tears. In short, pain. The American public demands this because the presumption of a dishonest black person, already in circulation in our culture, is intensified by the sight of an emotional black person.
Eric Clapton just released this recording of “I’ll be Seeing You”. I heard it I think the night of the first incident with Alton Sterling. I heard it before I leaned of the shooting and it seems to be perfectly summer(ey) as if there were no problems in the world, making for a beautiful fiction. Here’s a YouTube video of it.
Okay now next to those artists… Until next time