Obey, and you’ll be okay

Few things infuriate me more than people who automatically and wholeheartedly support a police officer who’s been caught wilding out against a person of color, because, almost without fail, someone says “Well, if s/he had simply listened to the officer, things would have been all right.”

You may as well advise people to not make eye contact, and lie down and play dead.

The argument pardons ill police behavior, and simultaneously states that civilians—Black civilians, especially—should be subservient. In other words, if don’t state that you’re tired of being harassed, then you won’t get choked out; if you don’t run away, then you won’t get shot in the back. Obey, and you’ll be OK (™).

Unfortunately, that’s the ultimate head-in-the-sand response for people who can’t, or won’t, accept that fact that there are police officers—armed people with the law on their side—who are out of control. Or, that there are Blacks who don’t deserve such treatment.

The “obey and you’ll be okay” sentiment—the cousin of respectability politics—places all the weight of the police-civilian interaction squarely on the shoulders of the person with the least power in the situation, and it doesn’t ensure safety. You can play nice and still get your rock knocked by an out-of-control police officer. I, and several of my friends, grew up knowing nightsticks, cheap shots, and thinly veiled threats. We were “good” kids, for the most part.

Only someone with a twisted sense of justice and/or immense racial issues truly believes that the amount of police force used in the various, well-documented acts of line-stepping suited the alleged crimes.

So, please, stop saying it.

Image courtesy of Vector 1.

The searing pain behind the Baltimore riots

The only Americans who truly understand the forces behind the Baltimore/Freddie Gray riots are Black people. That’s not to say that other races cannot sympathize; there are plenty of compassionate human beings of all shades who have marched, petitioned, and otherwise raised awareness about the all-too-frequent occurrences of police brutality to people of African descent. A Police brutality that’s just one aspect of the systemic, national attacks that have plagued Black communities from slavery to the Tulsa Riots to the present day. Black people get this, because we’ve lived this.

Yet, there are people who believe that nothing justifies an outburst from a race that’s been literally and figuratively pummeled since the 17th century. This isn’t a boo-hoo story; this is a fact. Any dismissal of the past with “well, that happened hundreds of years ago!” is incredibly short-sighted at best, and willfully hate-filled at worst.

If you apply enough stressors to an individual, then there’s a possibility that person could break. It could result in a relatively harmless action like punching a wall in a fit of anger, or something as complex as suffering a mental meltdown. Unfortunately, entire Black communities are suffering from multi-headed, multi-generational stressors. Stressors like:

Racism, stereotyping, the prison industrial complex, and resource roadblocks are a searing poison that claims many Black victims. Baltimore’s frustration and rage are real.

I feel it, too. I spent roughly half my life in the projects, so I empathize. I was dirt poor. I had my ass whopped by the police. I still deal with microaggressions on a regular basis. The playing field is uneven. There are potholes everywhere.

Riots don’t emerge out of the blue; riots emerge when many, many people feel the same pressure. So, America, look beyond the broken windows. There’s something there. Something ugly. And ditch the hypocritical audacity in how rioting is viewed.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any knuckleheads taking advantage of Baltimore’s tense situation. Some men just want to watch the world burn, after all, but they aren’t representative of the larger group who simply want a fair shot at life. There are Black people in Baltimore keeping the peace. There are Black people in Baltimore cleaning up the debris in the riots’ wake. We’re not animals.

“Black Lives Matter” is a slogan, a hashtag, and more importantly, a fact. We are human beings.

Treat us as such.

Image courtesy of Brendan Smialowski | AFP photo.

Is DreamWorks Animation burying the biracial Tip in its Home ads?

It’s not very often that a mainstream animated film features a biracial, female lead, but DreamWorks Animation’s Home does just that.
The move is a first for the studio, and one that I truly hope proves successful at the box office, because society needs this type of representation. As an ’80s kid, I didn’t see many brown faces in sci-fi and fantasy movies besides those belonging to warmongering Klingons. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Home centers on the relationship between Tip,  a curly-topped bi-racial teenager, and Oh,  a friendly alien invader. Let me reiterate: One of Home’s leads is a biracial female. I emphasize the racial aspect not just because its rare to see. There’s another angle to this, one that kills the importance of having such a character appear on the silver screen.

Occasional television spots are the only reason I know that Home has a biracial lead character. Every bus ad, taxi ad, and billboard that I’ve spotted while walking New York City’s streets have either highlighted Oh, or Oh paired with…Tip’s pet cat. I’ve yet to see a brown face and curls on any non-television marketing materials.

This saddens and infuriates me.

I recognize that these types of movies often push the manic alien/robot/magical/cutesy creature for merchandising purposes, but giving Tip less banner and billboard love than her cat screams “we have no faith that this will fly in certain markets.”  I have no hard evidence to support this; it’s speculation based on what I know about business and a portion of the American populace. The recent Annie remake apparently suffered similar marketing ills.

If DreamWorks Animation is tossing Tip into the background to court people who may be uncomfortable with the very idea of the character’s existence, it’s making a huge mistake. A company shouldn’t spend millions to bring a character to life only to partially bury it, especially when the character has the potential to touch millions of people of all shades.

DreamWorks Animation knows Tip’s importance. Play to the right audience.

Image courtesy of Dreamworks Animation