Photo: This was my last free morning until mid-September. My last opportunity to take a picture from my favorite spot. I am not a tourist and I’m not “new” anymore. This is where I live. My sense of belonging grows by the day, thought there is still plenty of that “outsider” feeling that lingers.
When I see the video out of McKinney, Texas, I see me and my little sister every single summer. This is the time of year when swim team would start after-school practice, so mom would ship us to grandma’s house for a weekend to get our hair braided. Yep–our hair braided in with the stuff from Sally’s beauty supply. We’d get them so long… down our backs long! Oh how everything would hurt after it was done! The butt and back ached after 8-10 hours of sitting, and that was nothing compared to the tender scalp thanks to those tight individual braids tightly fastened onto every root!
But, hair protected, we were set up for a summer of sun, salt, sand and twice-daily chlorine. At the pool. Right behind the house.
The private, all white, very expensive pool that my mom spent the money on because it was easy and we’d be in a safe place all day. She told us to follow the rules, behave, and not venture far from the pool or the house. Who needs camps and such when there is swim-team and snack bar?
I see Dajeeria Becton with the long braids and the slender body with the long-long legs and I think, “God, that was me 15 years ago. My sister, too.”
When I see that officer slam her to the ground, point a gun at her friends and rolling around commando-style like he is in a war zone… I think about how, for all of the White spaces my sister and I traversed (and traverse even still), we are so lucky to never have experienced such trauma as to be physically assaulted and humiliated in such a brutal way.
I was called a nigger on more than enough occasions, to be sure, but no hands were ever laid on me. Thank God. Why do I suddenly feel lucky instead of normal?
It is the matter of place. The places where a young woman should be safe, the places where we should all be able to expect respect, civility and dignity. It’s about the place the place where she always thought she belonged, the places she can and will go and, of course, the places where her welcome will always be provisional.
“Provisional” is the perfect word for this. Black girls are welcomed into all sorts of spaces, but always with so many, many rules. Don’t be too loud, aggressive, assertive (which is often confused with aggressive). Don’t be too subtle or subversive, or to textured, curvy or colorful. Don’t be too many, bringing others like you when only you were invited.
It’s a matter of place, and you should know it. Always.
Be small. Be nothing. Be only interesting in that one particularly pre-written ethnic sort of way. Or, and this is the best, take on all approved and “majority accepted” behaviors, erasing all self for compliance with everyone else.
McKinney comes as big reminder of a hard truth we’re all just starting to really talk about: Black bodies are under scrutiny and assault in Black spaces (See: New York, Ferguson, Baltimore) and they are for damn sure unwelcome in White spaces. It also reminds us that Black female bodies are no safer from violence than Black male bodies. No one is safe in the current environment.
“Go back to your Section 8 housing.” This is what adults were saying to children attending a party celebrating the end of the school year. Adults felt this an appropriate thing to do.
It’s all a matter of place.
We wouldn’t have heard this story at all if not for the young white man who shot the video or the two young white women who spoke up when no one else would. Accounts paint the picture of some older white women making racist comments and then being called out for it by White people around them. Then things got out of hand. Other accounts speak to young people hopping a fence to gain entry into the party being held at the pool (which the member family, according to reports, had permission to hold.)
Let’s say that’s true. Let’s say there was an infraction worthy of police involvement.
Tell me, with a straight face, you’d be ok with police tackling your daughter in the way that is depicted in that video. And remember, Officer Casebolt left Dajeeria (to chase her friends), then came back and tackled her again.
The internet trolls, (and certain “news” stations, God bless their little hearts) say that because the kids were “mouthing off” to the cops, Eric Casebolt’s actions were somehow justified. It’s appalling to me that the willful and state sanctioned trauma of young Black people in this country can be anyway justifiable by seemingly reasonable people.
Speaking to a police officer, in a heated tone, is not a crime.
Speaking to a police officer, even in a heated tone, is not punishable by sustained and brutal physical assault.
Even when the person who is doing the talking is a person of color.
Brown skin is not criminal skin.
Brown bodies are not criminal bodies.
Brown actions are not criminal actions.
Provisional welcome is, actually, unwelcoming.
It’s a matter of place.
More guardians. Less warriors. More allies. Less oppressors. More thoughtful (and loud) discourse. Less silence among the majority.
See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.