August 12, 2014

As a Black Man, I'm Tired of Asking For Equal Treatment

I make no apologies: I hate the police.

Last month, Eric Garner—a 43-year-old Staten Island man—was trapped in a prohibited chokehold and murdered by NYPD as he screamed, "I can’t breathe!" He begged for his life, which was viciously taken from him by overzealous men appointed to "protect and serve." Who they protect and serve, I don’t know, because many people of color (the predominant group in New York) don't feel comfortable around these men in uniform.

This Staten Island incident catalyzed discussion on social media amongst those with different culture and ethnic backgrounds, which I think is wonderful and do not want to nullify. However, what I am seeing disregards or limits on the opinions of African-Americans, black people, and other people of color. This blog post (AKA rant) will address this head-on.

First, let's discuss people of color and our relationship with law enforcement. I love idiosyncrasies of Brooklyn 99 and the ever so remarkable Mariska Hargitay on Law & Order:SVU, but I come to find that my relations with law enforcement outside of procedurals and sit-coms have been negative.

I was stopped and frisked about 30 times from 2010 to 2011. Countless times, I've been pulled over and questioned why I was in a certain area—including the neighborhood where my parents live. I've also been pulled over just so an officer can "check to see if I have active insurance." It is times like these that lead me to think that the police are not here for me, further exemplifying the feelings that many people of color undergo regarding the arm of the law. And that is, that it's easier for them (law enforcement) to see us as those worthy of punishment and prosecution than to respect us as individual citizens of the United States who aren't of the majority—white.

There's no doubt that white Americans fall victim to undeserved police brutality. Earlier this year, a deaf man was beaten by police in California because him speaking American sign language was mistaken for throwing gang signs. This is not the first time this has happened. I actually don’t know how this is possible. Gangs have one sign and American sign language has thousands. But, I guess that speaks to the competency of our law enforcement. (But seriously, how many gangs could he have possibly been apart of?)

I digress. My main issue is that whenever a person of color is faced with conflict, we must evaluate whether our skin color contributed to this injustice, and that is something a white person will never have to do. I often hear my white friends joke that many black people say, "Is it because I’m black," as a rejoinder to some type of rejection or insulting encounter. But the fact is that sometimes, we get treated certain ways because of our dark complexion.

According to studies, as a black man, I will face higher interest rates on cars and houses despite income. People will assume that my employment and acceptance to college was dependent on my race, despite my talents and gifts. And police officers are more likely to ignore my necessities or obligations, even though, they have no problem pulling me over to harass me on the way to church, school, and work.

Bottom line: there is an unrelenting message to people of color, and that is that we are not first class citizens. Something that is consistently seen in the death of black men like Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and other injustices that some people view as frivolous.

I'm tired of begging for equal treatment. I'm tired like Rosa Parks refusing to give up the seat she paid for. I'm tired like Lindsay Lohan passed out in the back of a limo in a grey hoodie. I'm tired like Lady Gaga’s career post-Fame Monster. I'm just tired.

The idea that the nation's conversation on race always ends with finger in ears, and people asserting that offended minorities are consistently playing the "race card" is simply exhausting. I don’t even play Uno, why would I be playing with cards?

-Otter Dempsey

August 11, 2014


HI ALL! Are there still any of you out there? The Token Black Chick is BACK. FOR GOOD.

But know that TBC is here to stay and I will be putting more effort into this baby. The first post in the relaunch is by one of my best buds and co-author of this blog.