Monday, December 28, 2015

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Here I am on vacation writing up a blog post on my Kindle which consistently wants to auto-correct Ta-Nehisi Coates, so forgive me if I neglected t to keep writing the name. I have finished reading Between the World and Me.

On the same day  news leaks out about another Chicago police shooting "under investigation". The difficulties of blogging on a Kindle have gone out the window. But, with Coates words in my head and the news headlines before my eyes I cannot help asking some of the same questions raised in this thought-provoking book. Virtually one long essay written to his teenage son. Of how to save himself, and still not be safe. That there is no safety.

I'm questioning so much. Yet, like Coates I feel a great distance between the world out there and the world inside of me, they have never jived. Perhaps this misunderstanding is normal for thoughtful, curious kids. The world of difference is color: I did not have to fear for my life while other writer-type kids such as Coates, Junot Diaz, Jesmyn Ward were in constant danger of being crushed.

So as I sit in middle-class complacency these last days of 2015 there are several families living on the Westside of Chicago making funeral plans for their loved ones. "Unintended victims" of what the police deniers are calling a tragedy.

Between the World and Me provoked a lot of self-examination. One question I kept coming back to and that I'll be unpacking in the upcoming weeks is this: Why during a demonstration for Michael Brown, Black Lives Matter, was I so uncomfortable?  I blogged about this eariler--about how I participated in a die-in where we flung "bodies", stuffed effigies representing people of color, victims of police violence. I felt like was was dying of mortification--especially when we stopped traffic.

I have NEVER been opposed to a good protest. I've been attending demonstrations ever since I was in college. Seriously--when the Iraq "war" started I was down at Daley Plaza holding up my little old sign praying for peace more than a couple of times.

But since that blog post and now, I have come to feel outrage. Not just a smattering of Black Lives Matter, but a soul-felt anger at the trigger-snappy injustice of cops toward those of color. C'mon, really, shoot to kill? Whatever happened to tasering, wounding, hitting them in the knees, letting people at least stand trial??? Giving them their day in court.

What Ta-Nehisi Coates is getting at is that the justice system is broken, policing has broken down. The world is too quick to pass judgment. I know Quintonio Legrier's and Bettie Jones of the 4700 block of West Erie Street in Chicago never had a chance.

No comments: