Pigment Perception: A Response to the “The Price of Blackness”

Tears well up in my eyes every time I hear it, and my heart gets really heavy and I...

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Price of Blackness

Tears well up in my eyes every time I hear it, and my heart gets really heavy and I can slowly feel it sink into my stomach, then my hips, all the way down to my toes where it pools on the ground. On the ground just like the boys that lay breathless in the middle of the road, the reason for which I am crying. It seems to me that more often than not there is another story in the news about innocent black people being shot down by privileged men and women who consider themselves better because they can raise their heads a little higher, their feet a little higher when they walk through the streets, and their egos a little higher because they have saved the world from yet another violent black man or woman; they raise all of these things higher because they do not live in the constant fear of such people. Racism is alive and “well” in the United States today. This judging of outer appearances can lead to a plethora of problems, as shown by Lanre Akinsiku, the young black author of “The Price of Blackness“.

In Akinsiku’s article, “The Price of Blackness,” he shows that prejudice can be an issue through showing the horrific emotions he experiences as a young black male living in America, dealing first-hand with biases, as well as the emotions he experiences when hearing of the death of another black citizen. Akinsiku states that mentally he experiences this engulfing, drowning anger first which is then followed by sadness, then helplessness. After all of these emotions have begun to rot away at him, he realizes that “simply mourning the deaths of other young black men isn’t good enough anymore”(4). All of these emotions can mentally tear a person down, until they are lost and do not know where to turn with these feelings. Though I cannot relate directly to these types of feelings – myself being a young white female – I do experience horrific feelings that tear me down as well when I read, or hear, or see these tragic stories. I feel as if, as a white person, I could have done something to stop it. I feel as if I could have educated my peers, and society, and culture to know better. I feel as if I should have known they were laying there, I should have called and gotten the fallen help, I should have shot the shooter instead. I feel a personal responsibility for all the scary and disturbing things people who look like me do based on snap judgments and the snap of what keeps a man good in his mind and the snap of a trigger. All of these emotions are a huge problem that plague our society today, all caused by judgment on outer appearance which can lead to the need for medical assistance or to harming oneself or society.

Yet another problem Akinsiku brings to light in his article is the effect on the family of the person whose life was prematurely and savagely ended. Online there is always these gut-wrenching, hard to look at photos of a child’s mother or father screaming with despair at the loss of their baby. I think the most gruesome photo of a parent without their child I have ever seen was of Michael Brown’s father: he was brought to his knees by pain, his t-shirt drenched with sweat and tears, his face twisted in agony, he was screaming for his child’s life. I could not imagine even beginning to put into words what that poor man felt in that moment and still feels today. What makes all of this worse is what the media puts a parent through just to wrongly portray it to the masses. Akinsiku shows the horror parents or guardians or loved ones are put through by writing “…and some loud-talking reporter is interviewing the boy’s mother, again, and you can see his mother’s shoulders slumped until they can’t slump anymore, and she’s been crying so much she’s gotten to the point of simply not bothering to wipe the tears away, and you watch her as she tries to look into every camera and speak into every microphone, and watch her as she suddenly gets the spectacle of all this…”(5). This shows the nightmare parents undergo, first by losing their child, then by the conviction of some monster, and then by the media down their throats searching for all the right words and for what they wish to hear. This process parents are somehow expected to overcome damages them physically, mentally, and emotionally, and is, not to mention, completely the result of bias on citizens with black skin.

Lastly, Akinsiku speaks about the problem of men and women pushing black men and women so hard until they have nothing to do but stand up for themselves, which ultimately leads to their death. Black men and women are tormented and tortured until they have to say something in the defense of themselves because there is no one else who will do it. Michael Brown was one of these men. He was poked and prodded by Darren Wilson, who was told by authorities to leave him alone, until Brown finally said “no.” “And maybe it was the “no” of someone who’s been pushed around, which is a more beautiful “no”, since it is so clear and absolute”(10). And this “no” led Brown to be left in the street with Wilson’s bullet still inside of him, all because Wilson had a white power superiority complex that made him believe his life was better because he had lighter pigment and a goddamn badge. Michael Brown is only one of many black men and women to be left in the street, he laid along with Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, and Eric Garner. According to racist citizens, this only becomes a problem when there are so many bodies in the street they are blocking the way to the gun and ammo store. Yet, in reality, this becomes a problem when people are being shot and left like road kill, and not treated as the humans beings they are because they have a different skin color, something that is completely out of their control.

Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. In the eyes of racist people black people possess the characteristic they have black skin, therefore they are violent and lesser. The truth of the matter is that other races than black are doing the shooting down in these situations, making them the violent ones. Not only is racism ignorant, it is terrorism. In 2015 alone there have been more murders of innocent black people by law enforcement, than the amount of  deaths that occurred on 9/11. There needs to be a new War on Terrorism. There are so many problems that are born from racism, but one of the most important issue is that an incredible amount of innocent black people are losing their lives, affecting everyone around them, and the shooters are calling it justice. Justice cannot thrive in the heart of racism, and justice will never be reached through the loss of innocent black lives.

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