Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

Are You Angry Yet?

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“Pardon me while I burst in to flames…”

-Incubus, Pardon Me

I’m growing weary. As I sit here in the safety and comfort of privilege, I’m weary. It makes me sick. My stomach turns as I turn on the news. I feel the tears of anger well up as I watch events unfold. I feel my heart race as I hear the decision. I’m not surprised. Sadly, I’m not surprised. But I’m mad.

Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Jordan Davis. Darius Simmons. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. John Crawford. Kajieme Powell. These are just a handful of names of black boys and men killed in the past year. Not all of them. Not even close. These are the deaths that should have stopped the world. These are the losses that should have caused a giant intake of air as we all caught our breath in shock. But they didn’t. Some of these names you’ve probably never heard. Others you may have heard in passing but they likely became part of the white noise that makes up our everyday of information overload.

I sigh as I have to explain it to my children. Again. Yes. Another man has gotten away with killing a black boy. Yes, it’s crazy. Yes, it’s wrong. No, I don’t understand it either. No. You don’t have to worry about this happening to you. Because you’re white. But your friends? Some of them live in this reality. Those friends you meet at the park after school? The ones you eat lunch with every day? The ones you laugh with on the bus? Yes, honey, they have to worry about this kind of thing happening to them. 

Don’t pity me this conversation. While I wish I never had a reason to explain the injustice that is the reality for too many, my conversation is not the difficult one. No. That burden belongs to the parents of young black people in our country. You are a threat simply because of who you are. Your dark skin makes people look at you as a threat. You have to defer and submit. Not as an expression of respect so much as a life-saving tactic. You must do everything you can to not pose a threat. Keep your hands visible. Don’t linger on the street. Don’t… don’t… don’t get killed.

Which part of this pisses you off?

Is it the part where an unarmed boy was killed?

Is it the part where the twisted wheels of justice contorted to comply with a standard of permissibility and excusability?

Is it the part where an unarmed boy was killed?

Is it the part where a victim is vilified?

Is it the part where an unarmed boy was killed?

Is it the part where protestors took their anger and frustration too far?

Is is the part where yet another unarmed black boy was killed?

Which part pisses you off?

Which. Part.

While I sit here, wrapped in favor and entitlement, I’m pissed off. I’m pissed off at the denial that still sits heavily on our country’s conscious. I’m pissed at the ignorance that fills my news feed. I’m pissed off that the world still turns and the evening’s broadcast can’t take a fucking break from a B-list celebrity dance contest to cover a moment that everyone needs to see. I’m pissed that there are two realities in our country. And I’m pissed that too many people don’t even acknowledge or recognize or seem to be aware of those two realities and the disparities within.

As I sit here, bathed in immunity by means of my heritage, I’m tired. I’m tired of the same story with a different name. I’m tired of names being turned into hashtags. I’m tired of hearing the same arguments and excuses and justifications. I’m tired of the world going about it’s business like nothing happened.

I’m tired of waiting for our country grow up. I’m sick of waiting for my countrymen to stop acting like ignorant animals who only judge and assume and presume based on the most obvious of physical traits. I’m tired of wondering when we will start treating people as people. When we will recognize that our differences are completely superficial. When we will mature into rational intelligent beings who can differentiate between reality and perception. When we will stop acting like a petulant toddler who refuses to eat their dinner because their food is touching.

Our rationale is base.

Our reactions are primal.

Our mentality is antiquated.

As a whole our country is not mature enough to drive a car let alone carry destructive and deadly weapons.

And at the core of all of this? We refuse to even admit it’s a problem.

But we have grown men brandishing guns who still believe in the boogie man.

I wish I was exaggerating.

It’s not getting better. Sixty years after Emmett Till, it’s not getting better. The only thing that’s improved is the subtlety, the discretion. But it’s still the same story. Black boys are still being killed and white men are still getting away with it. Things look a little different, people speak of these things a little differently. A black man sits in the White House. But not much has changed. Because black men are still expendable.

I’m tired of waiting for people, for the masses, to wake the fuck up.

Here I am, safely tucked into my birthright. Secretly thanking the universe for granting me the immunity of paleness. Shamefully breathing easier that my son is not a threat by simply being in his own skin. As I sit here in comfort and security, I am pissed.

What about you? Which part pisses you off?

Which. Part.



35 Responses

  1. All of it, Gretchen. It all pisses me off.

    But what can we do about it? What can I, myself, do about this? I want this to change so badly. I’m sick thinking of that dead boy.

    I’ll read this, and comment, and share it. I’m frustrated and sad and disgusted today, and mostly with myself. I’m so steeped in my own problems that I can’t get out there, wherever “there” is, and be part of the solution.

    1. I wish I knew. I really do. Writing this is more for me to release what I’m feeling. I’m under no illusions that it will change anything (although I strongly believe in the power of words to bring about change). I’m feeling everything you’re feeling. I’m sitting on the couch last night in my pajamas watching everything in Ferguson, feeling like a fraud and a wannabe.

      The optimist in me hopes that this will be the thing that will start to wake people up. But I’ve been disappointed before…

      You can’t be so hard on yourself. You’re not the problem. You will ultimately be a part of the solution if a solution’s ever to be had (sounding like a true optimist, huh?). At the least you know that you’re raising a kid that will grow up knowing that this shit is wrong. We’re raising kids who won’t perpetuate this. It’s not enough and I’m not going to hang my activist hat on that, but it is something. *hugs girlie*

  2. This kind of thoughtful post is the reason I love blogs. Thanks for sharing your feelings! Want a road map of the future? See the movie Idiocracy. We’re well on our way.

    1. Will you have vodka waiting for me? Cause I have a feeling I’ll need it. And I think you’re right. I think eventually it will all come to a head. And it will likely get uglier before real change happens. Sigh. Make mine a double.

  3. Sadly, I saw this coming. And, frankly, I’m tired of it, too. Police in general are too quick to shoot and too often get away with it by claiming they feared for the life. I realize being a cop is incredibly difficult and they often face dangerous situations, but shooting first and asking questions later shouldn’t be an option.

    1. I know. I have a lot of respect for the police. I think most of them are good. I imagine they must be furious that the bad cops make their jobs more dangerous and give them a bad name. The problem is the whole fraternal aspect. It thrives on secrecy and protection at all costs. Any time you see that kind of environment (the military, Catholic church,etc) change is slow and corruption prevails.

  4. Having been around long enough to see the cival rights movement take hold; to learn of the death of young people of all races who were trying to peacefully protest; to see Selma AL in the news & it’s police brutality sanctioned by the state & to experience the pain of Dr. King’s assassination the first thing any of us must do is never give up. Since slavery to this day the injustice & inequality occur all around us & yet we can’t lose hope for change. We can all do something to bring about that change even though it may seem small & insignificant. Turn pissed into passion!

  5. Well said. It’s a disgrace. Again. How old are your children please? I haven’t spoken to my daughter about this. I think she’s too young. But maybe she’s not…

    1. First I want to say that I’m never this late responding to comments. I am so mad that I didn’t see these notifications sooner! But to your question, my son is 14 and my daughter is 11. I mostly have had these conversations with my son. He is very tuned in to what is going on in the world, on the news, etc. So he asks questions about these things. After Trayvon Martin was killed we had this conversation. He couldn’t understand why it happened. We discussed race issues and how they play out even today. Because he asks a lot of questions these conversations tend to get deep. He has a lot of black friends and he asked me if they were at risk of things like this happening to them. I was honest with him and told him yes. I try to take cues from my kids. My 11 year old doesn’t ask much about these things and is not as aware. She knows a little because it’s been all over the media lately with the protests and she hears me and my son and my husband discussing it. But I just make sure she understands the basics. It’s hard because you hate to take away their innocence. Since my son’s getting to the age where he and his friends are starting to look like young men, I felt like it was a crucial conversation to have.

      1. And now I want to be actual friends with you : ). Please tell me you live in America, on the east coast. Well done lady. The world will be a better place because of hour honesty and open-mindedness with your children : )

  6. What Samara said. Pissed about all of it.

    I’ve been thinking all day that I needed to sit down after work and write something about it, but I’m too angry. I’d end up with a rant (and you know I’m trying to resist the impulse to rant on the social media these days) or else I’d just end up saying the same thing millions of people have already said. It makes more sense to just find something good and share it.

    I am at a loss as to what to do about it.

  7. The whole situation sickens and saddens me. My heart is heavy within me any time there is wanton destruction of life and such waste and prejudice.

    But my heart reminds me that for every black, unarmed boy shot in the US, there are probably ten abandoned baby girls in China, and perhaps a few less abandoned special needs babies across Eastern Europe.

    There are genocides and child soldiers and people smuggled into sex-trafficking and because they’re not motivated by ‘racism’ – because they’re not going to sell papers…they go largely below the radar.

    The more I think on this, and this (absolutely justifiable) outrage, the more I can’t help but think of the things which haven’t been said – the atrocities which aren’t being reported, and the people who die unnoticed.

    They need this passion, this outrage, every bit as much.

  8. So much of it. Breaks my heart into a million pieces. I get the mistakes, I get that we’re all human. Humans are the worse: You monsters are people. It’s kind of our thing. The difference between the mistakes of some people are the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, to say sorry, to LIVE to tell your side of the story. Mike Brown, Travon Martin, all the names I’m ashamed to say I cannot recall, they will never tell their side, or learn from their mistakes. Because they’re dead. I don’t know how we explain this to any children, much less the children that don’t live to tell their side. My heart hurts.

    1. So I’m going to have to say this to everyone who commented here after I checked out. I checked out after I wrote this. Then when the Eric Garner decision came down… I had to step away from the blog, from social media for a while. I didn’t tune out what was happening, but I just had to disengage from talking about it. I’m not proud of that, but that is why I didn’t respond to comments sooner. That sucks, I hate that people commented and I wasn’t here. The whole thing still disgusts me. Something’s terribly broken in our society. I’m honored that you came here to read this. Thank you.

  9. That I won’t ever have to teach my (white) children how to behave around people who look different than they do. I won’t have to teach them to go ahead and cross the street from that person whose skin is so much lighter than yours ’cause it’s just safer. To just go ahead and not talk to that person with the light skin ’cause you might end up in trouble.
    Without giving away too much, my husband (a white man) works in a system which is made up mainly of African-Americans. And that has been led mainly by white Americans. But that’s changing, and when he talks to his coworkers who are African American, he finds that they teach their children these messages: don’t mess with the white man; you’ll end up in trouble. These are smart, highly-educated people who work in leadership positions, but they still know they must pass down this message that they were taught themselves as children.
    It’s disgusting how little I understand from my position of privilege.

    1. As I said to Joy, above, I checked out after I wrote this. From the blog and social media. I just couldn’t deal with this whole situation. That’s a lame piss poor excuse because there are people who live with this every day and I couldn’t deal with discussing it. The kicker was the Eric Garner decision.

      I too never realized that this was a common conversation, a survival tool, among black americans. I wrote a post after the George Zimmerman trial and did some research and that’s when I first learned of this. It’s sometimes referred to as “The Talk.” And I had not heard about it until I was 40 years old. And I don’t consider myself to be unengaged or detached from the plight of others. And I grew up around minorities and went to inner city schools. And still, I was unaware of the depths that this type of racism runs. Remember the Harvard professor who was arrested going in to his own house? And even Obama relayed a story about someone assuming he was with the wait staff at an event (I think that happened when he was Senator). It’s crazy. And indicative of just how big the problem is.

      (Also, thank you so much for coming here and reading this. I am touched that you did and that you took the time to have a conversation about it.)

    1. Maybe you’re right. Maybe that’s the conversation that needs to be happening. (And I will tell you like I told the others. I’m sorry to be so late responding to your comment. I checked out and stepped away from the blog for a few days. Something I’ve never done. It is in no way an indication of a lack of appreciation for you reading and commenting. And it is not typical of how I interact on my blog.)

  10. Gretchen, thank you for your eloquence. And yes, I’m so pissed, I don’t know where to begin…maybe last night, after watching the inevitable results of that legal train wreck called Bob McCullogh, who dragged this tortured charade out for the last three months. Or witnessing the farce that was his so called press conference in which he castigated the media and the unreliability of the witnesses to justify his preordained outcome. Or seeing him hide behind his legal authority, while watching him distort justice once again and make yet another black youth the villain and the armed cop the victim. It’s like watching “Ground Hog Day”. The same event happening over and over, almost daily. Only the names change…!

    1. *sigh* it is like watching Ground Hog Day. A sick twisted version. It keeps happening. It’s happened so many hundreds of times that were never major news stories. And as for McCullough… he needs to be investigated for his conduct in my opinion. Where I live we had a case of an officer shooting an unarmed black man who had been in a car accident and was just asking for help. The DA took it to a Grand Jury and it came down with no indictment. He took it to another Grand Jury and got the indictment. So there’s an example of a DA doing the right thing in very similar circumstances. The system is broken and corrupt. And if it doesn’t change I worry that we’ll be watching the same damn movie over and over. (also, like I told the others, I’m so sorry it took me this long to respond to comments. I checked out and stepped away from my blog for a few days after the Eric Garner decision. I felt like either anger or despair would take over and I took a break. But I really appreciate your comment. I hope you’ll forgive the delay in my response)

    1. I’m a U.S. citizen and I can’t fathom that the officials won’t do anything to change the system. It is appalling. I don’t think many people here in this country realize how these things are perceived by people in other parts of the world. Like you said, it’s glaringly obvious. It’s obvious to me as well. If only others would pull their head out of the sand and see what’s right in front of them.

  11. Dear Ms Kelly –
    Such a passionate article as this must be read and understood by everyone. I will do my best to share it across the net. These types of police murders are so far beyond the pale that it is a never ceasing source of bewilderment that the perpetrators, and they are in fact, perpetrators/criminals/murderers, continually “get away” with little more than a slap on the wrist.
    The decision of the Grand Jury in Ferguson was followed by the news that a 12 year old, black boy playing “shoot ’em up” in the local playground was shot dead by two police officers in Cleveland. Someone called in a 911 report with words to the effect, “there’s a guy pointing a gun at people. I’m sure it’s fake but …” A guy? Sure it’s fake? And yet, a security camera at the playground records a boy pointing a gun and seconds later, he’s standing inside a gazebo alone. The police car pulls up next to the gazebo, two cops jump out and immediately shoot the boy down.
    There was no tone, but the actions of these “officers” alone demonstrate that there was also no talking to record. There was no call to put the gun down, no warning shot, no shot to wound. It was point blank, shoot to kill murder. The police commissioner was on the news within an hour claiming that the officers acted appropriately!
    The people of the U.S. are slowly waking up. I’m afraid, too slowly. Police departments are being equipped with surplus military vehicles and weapons. There’s only one reason this could be happening. The powers that be are worried.
    I hope so. I’m not an advocate for violence; but sometimes it’s the last resort and it must be taken.

    1. First, I am so sorry for my late response. I felt the need to take a step back, especially after the Eric Garner decision. And I wanted to write about that as well. But I was feeling so much anger and despair over all of it… a piss poor excuse, and I’m sorry. Especially when your comment is one that can start such a great discussion. The situation with the Cleveland officer shooting the little boy with the gun was so egregious. From what I saw, the officer didn’t even attempt any other resolution other than firing his weapon. And a little boy is dead. It’s hard to even try to wrap your brain around that.

      The self righteous anger over some in the law enforcement community has been especially disturbing. The anger some of them expressed over football players making a statement walking on the field… the anger over de Blasio’s remarks about his own son… They are either completely lacking in self awareness and the shift that is taking place, or they are so used to hiding behind the shield that they are expressing indignation. After they murdered unarmed boys. It’s unreal.

  12. This whole situation sickens me deeply. Raising a son myself it makes me fearful of what will happen to him when he gets older and is faced with these type of incidences. It is sad to say my son has just turned one year old and the world is already against him. I am raising him to become a very productive, strong black man, but is being to strong going to cost him his life in the long run.? These are the things that I fear the most.

    1. Your comment breaks my heart. I can’t imagine the fear that mothers go through raising young black men in this country. It is hard to believe that this is where we are in 2014. But what I want to say to you, is this will change. It has to change. It has to. People are waking up now. I’m an optimist and I hope I’m not being naive when I say that things will change. I wish I had more words of reassurance. I wish I knew what to do to bring about change. My words that I write are only words. And that’s frustrating as hell.

      1. I hope and pray times get better! I have so much to show and teach my son and I hope he is givin the chance to life a happy productive life…. All without having to worry about being hurt all by the color of his skin.

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